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A vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) is a small, battery-operated device that sends electrical pulses to the vagus nerve to reduce seizure frequency. It can be thought of as a pacemaker for the brain.

Vagus nerve stimulation may be a seizure treatment option for patients with uncontrolled epilepsy. As we treat hundreds of epilepsy patients each year, our neurologists and neurosurgeons at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Comprehensive Epilepsy Center have extensive experience with VNS evaluation and treatment. We have been involved in experimental trials for this device, and are always on the forefront of perfecting the use of new epilepsy surgeries.

Implanting a VNS for Epilepsy

When implanting a VNS, your neurosurgeon will place the VNS under the skin in your chest and attach wires to the vagus nerve in your neck. The VNS sends electrical impulses to the vagus nerve at regular intervals. During a seizure, a magnet can be swiped across the device to send extra impulses to the brain that may reduce the length or severity of the seizure.

After surgery, you will meet regularly with a neurologist for routine follow-up appointments and adjustments for the best seizure control.

Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS)

Our epilepsy specialists, including epileptologists, neurosurgeons and neuroscience nurses, work together to determine the right treatment for your individual needs. If VNS is not right for you, responsive neurostimulation (RNS) is a similar epilepsy treatment that is available at Barnes-Jewish.

RNS is a device that is surgically placed in the skull. The targeted area of the brain is attached to the stimulator, which detects the seizure patterns. When it recognizes the seizure pattern, it sends pulses to disrupt the activity and stop the seizure.

To make an appointment with a Washington University epileptologist, neurologist or neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 855.925.0631.

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