Vagus Nerve Stimulation therapy is a FDA approved long-term treatment regime for patients with treatment resistant depression (TRD). This form of therapy is now being offered to patients at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.
The treatment is now the first treatment specifically approved for TRD in patients over 18 years of age in whom antidepressant therapy has been unsuccessful atleast in four or more of the depressive episodes.
The treatment is instituted with the help of a small pacemaker-like device implanted in the chest area. The device sends mild pulses to the brain through the vagus nerve in the neck. A generator that runs under the skin to the left vagus nerve powers the device through a thin insulated wire.
The vagus nerve is one of the 12 cranial nerves and serves as the body's information highway connecting the brain to many major organs. Several studies have shown that VNS Therapy may modulate neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine thought to be involved in mood regulation.
Major depressive disorder is one of the most prevalent and serious illnesses in the U.S., affecting nearly 19 million Americans every year and more than 4 million people do not respond to conventional treatment such as psychotherapy, antidepressant medications, and even electroconvulsive therapy.
Nearly half of patients with an average of 25 years of major depressive disorder and multiple treatment trials realized some clinical benefit; one-third of patients had at least a 50 percent improvement in their depression; and one out of six was depression-free after treatment with VNS Therapy. Patients also reported significant improvements in quality-of-life areas, such as vitality, mental health, emotional well-being, and social functioning.
The new form of treatment is an important development in people with depression who need safe and effective therapeutic options. Several studies have revealed the sustained beneficial efforts of the therapy over a considerable length of time. In addition, is it associated with better patient compliance and fewer side effects.