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Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) (6143)

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) (6143) - Clinical Hub, Patient Education, Health and Nutrition Facts For You, Neuro, Rehab


Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

Your doctor has suggested Vagus Nerve
Stimulation (VNS) as an extra treatment to
reduce the number of seizures you or your
child has as well as how long they last.

With this therapy, a mild electrical signal
can be sent to a special nerve that carries
information to the brain. This nerve is
called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is
one of the main communication lines from
the major organs of the body to the brain.
The signals that go to the vagus nerve in the
neck are sent upward to the brain.

Parts of the VNS system
Two parts of this system must be placed
inside the body during surgery. These 2
parts are shaded in the table below. This
won’t require surgery on the brain. Your
surgeon will explain more about this during
a clinic visit. You should plan on staying in
the hospital after surgery. You will be sent
home the next day.

What is it? Where is it? What does it do?
Pulse Generator or
Under the skin on the left
side of the upper chest
Main component of VNS
system; sends signals
through electrodes of the
VNS lead to the brain
VNS Lead Attached to the left vagus
nerve on the left side of the
It holds the electrodes; it’s a
flexible, insulated tube
Computer Outside the body Contains VNS therapy
software; allows someone
to change settings on the
pulse generator
Programming Wand Outside the body Allows doctor or nurse to
change settings through the
Magnet Outside the body Allows you to manually
“stimulate” the generator; to
be used at the start of a
seizure or during one to
stop or shorten the seizure

Pulse Generator or Stimulator
The doctor will decide how to program the
device so that it works best for you or your
child. Any changes to the settings will be
made in the hospital or clinic.

Benefits of VNS therapy
VNS is not a cure for epilepsy. It also does
not work for everyone. We are not able to
predict how you or your child will respond,
but many patients have had some benefits as
listed below.
 less severe or shorter seizures
 shorter or less severe symptoms after
the seizure ends
 more alert overall, improved
memory and thinking
 some eventually are able to reduce
the dosage of their seizure
 very few patients are able to stop
medicines completely

Side Effects
You may feel side effects at first from the
VNS, but they will most likely become less
noticeable over time. The most common
side effect is hoarseness. The other three
most common side effects are sore throat,
shortness of breath, and coughing. These
problems mostly occur only during
stimulation. If these symptoms are non-stop
or uncomfortable, let your doctor know.

Other side effects that may be related to the
VNS system:
 Lack of
 Inability to sleep
 Indigestion
 Difficulty
 Nausea
 Pain
 Vomiting
 Throat spasms
or tightness
 Throat
 Tooth pain
 Hiccupping
 Facial flushing
Call your doctor right away:
 If you or your child develop any of
these symptoms.
 If stimulation becomes painful.
 If any new symptoms develop that
you feel are because of stimulation.

About the Magnet
There are 3 main reasons to use the
 Stop a seizure
 Temporarily turn OFF the pulse
 Check to see if the pulse generator is

Stopping a seizure
 This is the most common use for the
 If you or your child feels an aura or a
seizure starting, hold the magnet on
the pulse generator for two seconds.
 If the seizure does not stop or slow
down, you can repeat this one, two,
or three minutes after the first use
 The magnet may also be used in the
middle of a seizure.

Temporarily turn OFF the pulse
 When you or your child plan to sing
or speak in public (if stimulation
causes a change in your voice).
 When eating (if there are
swallowing problems).
 If stimulation becomes painful or

 Place the magnet over the pulse
 Hold it there, or tape it in place for as
long as you want the stimulation
 As soon as the magnet is removed,
the regular stimulation cycle will

Check if the pulse generator is working
 Your doctor will do this at an office

Cautions about handling the
 Do not drop the magnets. They can
break if dropped on a hard surface.
 Carry a magnet with you at all times.
Show caregivers how and when to
use the magnet.
 Never store magnets near credit
cards, computers, computer discs,
watches, or other magnets. Keep
them at least 10 inches away. The
reason for this is the magnet may
cause damage to these items.
 Do not sleep with the magnet on
your wrist. Moving around during
the night can place the magnet over
the generator for long periods of time
by mistake.

Avoid excessive vagus nerve stimulation.
This happens when using the magnet for
more than four hours of constant
Using other magnets
Only the magnet given to you from the
Cyberonics Company should be used with
your VNS. If you lose or break your
magnet, order another one from Cyberonics.
In an emergency, you can try other strong
magnets. The use of other magnets will not
harm the device.

Environmental hazards Medical hazards
Unsafe  Strong magnets, hair clippers,
vibrators, loudspeakers, and
similar electromechanical devices
can cause the pulse generator to
start suddenly

 Transmitting antennas may
interfere with the VNS
 Treatment with radiation, cobalt
machines, and linear accelerators
may damage the pulse generator
 MRI should not be performed
with a body coil in transmit mode
 The pulse generator (including
magnet output setting) must be
turned off before MRI and
 External cardiac defibrillation,
diathermy, electrocautery, and
extracorporeal shockwave
lithotripsy may damage the pulse
 The pulse generator may affect
the operation of cardiac
pacemakers and implantable
 Avoid any therapeutic ultrasound
treatment since heat may be
concentrated by the device

Environmental hazards Medical hazards
 Small appliances like microwave
ovens, toasters, hair dryers,
electric shavers should not affect
the pulse generator
 Cellular phones do not affect the
pulse generator
 Properly working electrical
ignition systems and power
transmission lines should not
affect the pulse generator
 Antitheft devices and metal
detectors should not affect the
pulse generator
 Most routine diagnostic
procedures should not affect the
pulse generator
 Special positioning during
mammography may be needed
for a clearer image

About the Pulse Generator Battery
Battery life ranges from 6.5 to 10 years if used at normal settings. It will lose its power
over time. When this happens, it will begin to stimulate differently. You may notice an
increase in the number of seizures, how severe they are, and how long they last. Seizures
may increase to the level they were before the VNS was placed. Call your doctor if you
suspect this has happened. Your doctor will discuss with you the benefits of VNS and
whether the pulse generator should be replaced.

If you have questions about VNS and your seizure control, ask your neurologist.

Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call
if you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with
your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical
condition. Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on
your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©
8/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the
Department of Nursing. HF#6143