Object: Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) plays a significant role in the treatment of intractable epilepsy. The goal of this study was to analyze trends in the use of VNS for epilepsy in the US by using a nationwide database.
Methods: Data for patients undergoing VNS were obtained from the nationwide inpatient sample for the years 1998-2005. Trends regarding number of procedures, length of stay (LOS), hospital charges, patient sex, and payer information were retrieved and analyzed.
Results: The number of VNS procedures for epilepsy increased between 1998 and 2003 but decreased in the subsequent 2 years. The LOS and hospital charges showed yearly increases. Female patients underwent VNS implantation more than males did, and most procedures were performed in the 18- to 64-year-old age group. The combination of Medicare and Medicaid provided most of the funding for VNS from 2002 through 2005. The VNS procedures were performed mostly in teaching hospitals.
Conclusions: Trends from a national database reveal consistent use of VNS for intractable epilepsy. Greater use of the procedure appears to be reflected in the female population, and the procedure has been performed most often at tertiary care teaching hospitals, where a comprehensive evaluation for all forms of therapy is arguably best able to target appropriate patients for appropriate therapies. With the recent application of VNS to target populations without epilepsy, such as patients with refractory depression, the trend of continued use of this treatment for epilepsy appears likely.