Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is way to treat certain conditions, most commonly for epilepsy (a condition that causes seizures). VNS uses a small device, much like a pacemaker, to deliver a light electrical shock to the vagus nerve. This helps to control seizures or other activity when medicines or surgery either don’t work, or aren’t an option.
The vagus nerve starts in the brain and branches throughout the body. It is part of your autonomic nervous system. This is the group of nerves that control your bodily functions, such as heart rate, digestion, breathing, and sexual response. When the vagus nerve is stimulated by a VNS device, the result is a specific response. For example, a person may have fewer seizures.
VNS is not for everyone. It is best for people who have specific needs. Risks include:
- Infection at the implantation site
- Pain or inflammation at the incision site (wound)
- Damage to nearby nerves or tissue
Side effects may include:
- Hoarseness or changes in your voice
- Pain in the throat, neck, or body
- Spasms in the throat or larynx
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach upset after eating (indigestion), feeling sick to your stomach (nausea), or vomiting
- Tingling or prickling feelings in the skin
Most of these side effects will go away over time. Ask your healthcare provider about your specific questions or concerns.
- Talk with your doctor and family members about VNS. Ask any questions you may have.
- Make sure your doctor knows about all prescriptions, over the counter medicines (such as cough syrup or allergy pills), inhalers, patches, vitamins, and herbal remedies you are taking.
- Follow all instructions from your doctor about eating and drinking before your procedure.
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