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Vagus nerve stimulation "effective for under-12s"

7 May 2003

Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) may be effective in controlling seizures in children with epilepsy under the age of 12, according to a study issued by the manufacturers, Cyberonics.

VNS, used in people with difficult to control epilepsy since the 1980s, 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.

In the United States, the therapy is only licenced for use in adults and children with epilepsy over the age of 12.

A study of 32 patients under the age of 18 was performed at The Children's Hospital at The Cleveland Clinic. After three months, seizure frequency was reduced by 86 per cent, with frequency after six months reduced by 74 per cent. Twelve of the 32 participants were under the age of 12.

Prakash Kotagal, a paediatric epileptologist at the hospital, commented:

"There is already an established and growing body of data supporting the use of VNS therapy as an effective long-term treatment for pharmacoresistant epilepsy for patients over 12 years of age, and we are hopeful that additional studies with long-term follow-up will demonstrate that VNS therapy is effective in treating younger children."