Researchers from Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health had found that children suffering from epilepsy and not responding well to other treatments might be treated with implantation of a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) with significantly better results.
As an alternative to medication, the FDA had approved the implantation of a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) in patients older than 12 to help control or reduce the seizures that occur because of epilepsy, but until recently, there was no data to illustrate how children younger than 12 years of age would respond to VNS implantation. Researchers for the study have demonstrated that using a VNS in children is effective in reducing seizures and epilepsy-related hospital visits. Results of a two-year study were presented at the International League Against Epilepsy Congress August 28-September 1 in Paris.
In the study of more than 75 patients between the ages of one and 17 years treated at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Clinic at Columbus Children's Hospital, and researchers had found that 59 percent of the patients implanted with the VNS did not have localization-related epilepsy (seizures occurring in one part of the brain) and side effects requiring discontinuation were low (5 percent). Further, they had observed that hospital visits for epilepsy-related conditions decreased by 41 percent—this will have an impact on the long-term cost-effectiveness of VNS therapy and decrease overall patient morbidity. For families of children with intractable epilepsy, less time spent in the hospital has a significant, positive impact socially and financially by reducing the loss of parental work time, the patient's school absences, and family stressors relating to caring for a hospitalized child.
The VNS is implanted in the left side of a patient's neck and works by sending signals to the brain to decrease the electrical activity that leads to seizures. It was approved for intractable partial epilepsy (epilepsy that does not improve with medication) of adults (children greater than 12 years) in 1997. Columbus Children's Hospital was one of the first institutions to begin using VNS in children.