Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is an implanted device that stimulates the vagus nerve. VNS has a well-established safety profile for treating epilepsy and depression.

Illustration of vagus nerve stimulation
The VNS is implanted under the skin on the patients chest.

Studies showed that depression was lower in epilepsy patients who had VNS. So, VNS became a treatment for depression.

In 2001, VNS was the second device approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for the treatment of depression. It's also the first type used for treatment-resistant depression (TRD).

VNS is like a 'pacemaker' device that stimulates the vagus nerve. This in turn affects brain areas involved in regulating mood.

VNS can reduce depression and increase your quality of life if you suffer from severe TRD. VNS can also be effective if you have not responded to ECT.

Studies have shown that VNS increases beneficial effects after three months of treatment.

The following outcomes show that VNS treatment is promising.

One-year outcomes:

  • 44% response rate
  • 29% remission rate

Five-year outcomes:

  • 68% response rate
  • 43% remission rate