Pediatric Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

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.

Children's Program

The Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Program at Children's National Health System 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 Health System 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.

Applicable Conditions

Applicable Conditions


Epilepsy is a neurological condition involving the brain that makes people more susceptible to having recurrent unprovoked seizures.

Children's Team

Children's Team


Children's Locations that Perform this Procedure

Children's Locations that Perform this Procedure

Treatment Service Locations

main hospital

Main Hospital

111 Michigan Avenue, NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20010

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We have the largest pediatric neuroscience team in the country that offers their vast experience to patients and families.

Epilepsy - Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Program (CPEP)

Whether your child had one seizure or is diagnosed with epilepsy, finding a pediatric specialist is an important step in getting quality care and support for your child and family.

Epilepsy, Neurophysiology, and Critical Care Neurology

The Division of Epilepsy, Neurophysiology, and Critical Care Neurology combines the expertise of highly specialized pediatric professionals focused on the diagnosis and treatment of neurological conditions that require ongoing treatment and support.