Vagal Nerve Stimulation is a surgical procedure often used in patients with recurrent seizures, or epilepsy, to help control the frequency or intensity of their seizures. This typically is done in patients that continue to have seizures even after being on high doses of antiepileptic medications (AED). Candidates for this surgery also are not able to have open brain surgery and resection of their seizure area. Most often, vagal nerve stimulators are placed to help the AED in controlling seizures. It is true that most patients are able to stop some of their medications or significantly reduce their doses, but almost all patients remain on AEDs after placement of a vagal nerve stimulator.
Metropolitan Neurosurgeons work in conjunction with patient’s neurologist to identify who would be a good candidate for this procedure. This is a surgical procedure done in the operating room. Most of the time this surgery is done as an outpatient procedure, meaning that the patient will go home the same day as the surgery. This is always placed on the left side and often involves two small incisions: one in the neck and one along the chest near the shoulder. The vagus nerve is identified near the carotid artery and jugular vein. A small lead is wrapped around the nerve and tunneled to the other incision, where it is connected to the computer generator. This is then tested and placed completely under the skin. The patient’s neurologist can then use a device to turn the stimulator on or change the settings. If you feel that you may be a candidate for vagal nerve stimulation, contact your neurologist and have them refer you to Metropolitan Neurosurgery for more details.