Objective: To evaluate safety and efficacy of vagal nerve stimulation in dogs with refractory epilepsy.
Design: Placebo-controlled, double-masked, crossover study.
Animals: 10 dogs with poorly controlled seizures.
Procedure: A programmable pacemaker-like device designed to deliver intermittent stimulation to the left cervical trunk of the vagus was surgically implanted in each dog. Dogs were assigned randomly to two 13-week test periods, 1 with nerve stimulation and 1 without nerve stimulation. Owners recorded data on seizure frequency, duration, and intensity, as well as adverse effects.
Results: No significant difference in seizure frequency, duration, or severity was detected between overall 13-week treatment and control periods. During the final 4 weeks of the treatment period, a significant decrease in mean seizure frequency (34.4%) was detected, compared with the control period. Complications included transient bradycardia, asystole, and apnea during intraoperative device testing, and seroma formation, subcutaneous migration of the generator, and transient Horner's syndrome during the 14-day period between surgery and suture removal. No adverse effects of stimulation were detected, and most owners were satisfied with the treatment.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Vagal nerve stimulation is a potentially safe approach to seizure control that appears to be efficacious in certain dogs and should be considered a possible treatment option when antiepileptic medications are ineffective.