Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) therapy is done by the help of a device which is implanted under the skin through which electrical pulses are sent through the left vagus nerve, prominent pairs of half of the nerves running from the stem of the brain through the neck and each side of chest and abdomen. The working of the vagus nerve is to conduct messages from the brain to the major organs of the body like heart, lungs etc and also to such areas of the brain which governs the mood, sleep and other important functions of a person.
Why is VNS done?
VNS is done for the treatment of epilepsy i.e. a neurological disturbance due to which sensory disturbance, consciousness loss or an abnormal electrical activity is experienced in the brain. Also, scientists have recognized that the therapy has favorable effects for treatment of depression as well. By the help of brain scans, scientists also assured that the this also helps in the treatment of mood regulations or other affected parts of the brain as well.
In 2005, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved VNS as a depression-resistant treatment under some conditions like :
- The therapy can be done if the patient is 18 years old or above 18 years
- If the illness is not aided by other medications or psychotherapies for two years or more
- If the condition of a patient is severe
- If the depression has not aided even after trying four other forms of treatments
How VNS works?
A device approximately equal to the size of a stopwatch called pulse generator is implanted inside the upper left side of a chest by a surgery. The pulse generator is connected to an electric wire which is further connected from the generator to the vagus nerve at left.
Generally, electric pulses are sent for 30 seconds after about every five minutes from a generator to the vagus nerve. The programming of generator varies the duration and frequency of pulses generated. In turn, the vagus nerve delivers the signals produced by electric pulses to the brain. Normally, no pain or therapy is felt by the patient during the operation of a generator.
The device operation can also be neglected for a while by the help of a generator which is placed right over the chest where pulse generator is surgically implanted. The patient has the option of deactivating the pulse generator if the side effects of generator become unbearable, or before performing any activity or exercise because it may disturb the breathing. The device can be activated again by removing the magnet.
The Vagus Nerve Stimulation treatment is done for the purpose of reducing symptoms of severe depression. It may take a long time before showing its benefits or sometimes it may not respond to a mental state of any patient. In addition, other therapies and medicines are necessary to take while having VNS therapy and they cannot be neglected so the relative patients are not expected to discontinue the other therapies even after the implantation of a device.