Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Program
The Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Program is coordinated through Children’s Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Program (CPEP), one of the largest of its kind in the country.
Because every patient is unique, so too is the care they receive from our specialists. We work with patients and families to identify the most appropriate treatment, which at times means considering alternatives to conventional medications and therapies.
How Vagal Nerve Stimulation Helps Patients
Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is an alternative for children whose seizures are not well-controlled with medications and who are not candidates for a brain operation to eliminate seizures.
VNS attempts to control seizures by sending small pulses of current to the brain from the vagus nerve, which is a large nerve that runs from the brain, through the neck and chest to the abdomen. This is done by surgically placing a small battery under the chest muscles and above the chest wall. Small wires are then attached to the battery and placed under the skin and around the left vagus nerve. The battery is then programmed to send current every few minutes to the brain.
In addition, when the child feels a seizure coming on, he or she may activate the impulses by holding a small magnet over the battery. For some patients, this may help stop the seizure or make it less severe.
The Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Program at Children’s National Medical Center monitors patients receiving VNS therapy for epilepsy, and collects data on VNS efficacy and tolerability. The VNS Program follows more than 80 patients.
Children’s offers the VNS program at three sites — at the Neurology Clinic at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, Children’s Regional Outpatient Center in Fairfax, Va, Children’s Regional Outpatient Center in Rockville MD.
Your child can see our specialists for a pre-operative visit in either location to learn about the VNS, as well as regular follow-up visits after surgery for VNS programming and monitoring. The actual VNS surgery is performed at the main hospital by Children’s epilepsy neurosurgeon.
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