Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) therapy is a type of treatment that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat certain types of epilepsy and depression that hasn't responded to other treatments (treatment-resistant depression).
VNS therapy helps with epilepsy by delivering regular electrical impulses to the vagus nerve, which can help regulate abnormal electrical activity in the brain that leads to seizures. These electrical impulses may help reduce the frequency, duration, and intensity of seizures in some individuals with epilepsy. Allie had her VNS device implanted in May 2018 for seizure control.
A little known fact that I came across in my research is the VNS device can be beneficial in treating depression in some individuals.
Of course, VNS is not a first-line treatment for epilepsy or depression. Generally speaking, the implant is considered after other treatment options have been exhausted, and it's not effective for everyone.
VNS treatment comes with potential risks and side effects. These may include voice changes, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, coughing, tingling, or prickling in the skin, difficulty breathing, and changes in heart rhythm.
The only side effect that Allie has reported is her voice change. When her VNS activates every 3 minutes her voice then sounds like a lower tone with vibrations such as when you talk into a large box fan. When it is "going off", the device activates the vagus nerve, the electrical impulses travel through the recurrent laryngeal nerve and stimulate the muscles responsible for vocal cord movement. For the first 5 years the VNS has given Allie long streaks of seizure free days. Her record is 203 days. I cannot state the VNS gave her a cure, but I will be grateful for every seizure free day she has had in result of the implant.
The VNS can be an effective treatment for some individuals with epilepsy and depression. It is an invasive surgery that implants the device in the body. It is important to consider the risks and benefits with your healthcare provider and schedule a surgeons consultation before any decisions are made.