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Vagal nerve stimulation effective "for treatment of children with epilepsy"

21 Nov 2001

New data show that Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is associated with a significant reduction in seizure frequency and marked improvements in quality of life among children with treatment-resistant epilepsy, according to a study published in the Journal of Child Neurology.

Vagal Nerve Stimulation involves inserting an implant under the skin of the upper chest and vagal nerve area of the neck. Nerve fibres in the vagal nerve carry information from the body’s organs to the brain, which are believed to be involved in producing seizures. It is suggested that stimulation of the vagal nerve may be able to disrupt epileptic activity.

The study evaluated the effectiveness, tolerability and safety of VNS therapy for children after three months and six months of use in the largest reported group of children to receive VNS. The study found that VNS therapy was safe, well tolerated and highly effective in reducing the frequency of seizures over time:

  • Average seizure reduction at six months was approximately 45 per cent;
  • Over half of patients experienced more than a 50 per cent reduction in seizures at both three and six months.

Treatment with VNS therapy not only resulted in a decrease in seizure frequency but also in a striking improvement in various aspects of quality of life. After three and six months, improvements were reported in alertness, verbal communication and school performance.. These improvements occurred not only among patients who responded well to VNS, but also among patients who were considered non-responders (i.e., experienced less than 25 per cent reduction in seizure frequency).

"Findings from this retrospective study reveal an even greater reduction in seizure frequency than in the initial clinical trials of VNS and are comparable with reductions reported in adolescents and adults" said Dr Sandra Helmers of the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Neurology.

“Our research indicates VNS should be considered as a treatment for such individuals, even young children”, she added.

“The typical patient in this study was 12 years old, started having seizures at the age of two and had already tried nine antiepileptic drugs before trying VNS therapy" stated Helmers.

“Uncontrolled seizures are not only linked with a poor quality of life, but can also put children at a greater risk of brain damage and increased mortality. Introducing effective seizure control treatments such as VNS earlier, rather than later, may help children avoid these negative outcomes."