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Definition of Vagal Nerve Stimulation

Vagal Nerve Stimulation is a method of controlling certain types of seizure in patients by sending mild electrical impulses to the vagus nerve, one of the primary cranial nerve pairs. It has helped many patients experience fewer seizures, and reduced the severity of those seizures as well.

The Procedure

A surgical procedure is performed to implant an electrical impulse generator which will send impulses at intervals to the vagus nerve. The procedure is very similar to that of a pacemaker installation. The device is usually located under the collarbone, with a wire lead that runs up the neck.

Once the device has been implanted, the doctor can program it using a computer. Timed pulses are sent to the vagus nerve, which help to interrupt the nerve impulses that may cause the triggering of a seizure. These impulses can also be initiated or turned off by the patient by waving a magnet over the device if symptoms of a seizure are felt, or if the impulses are causing unwanted side effects.