According to surgeon David Bjerken, M.D., “VNS has been used for years to treat epileptic seizures, and we are finding now that it can also help people who suffer from chronic depression. People who have had these implants tend to feel better, and their mood is better."
The battery-powered device, which is implanted in the left chest wall under general anesthesia, delivers very mild, intermittent, brief pulses to the left vagus nerve. The pulses are then transmitted via the nerve to specific areas in the central nervous system that control mood, motivation, sleep, appetite, and other symptoms that are relevant to depression. Most patients feel no sensation during this pulsing.
VNS therapy is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as long-term adjunct treatment, and is not intended to be used alone or as a substitute for medication. It may be indicated for patients 18 years of age and older who are suffering from treatment resistant depression and have not had adequate response to four or more antidepressant treatments. Psychiatrist Hector DeLeon, M.D., notes, "With increasing numbers of patients suffering from treatment resistant depression and facing the possibility of no additional improvement with medication alone, VNS is a very encouraging alternative that more and more psychiatrists are considering, offering hope to these patients."
For more information about VNS therapy at Florida Hospital Waterman, please call 352.253.3388.