Vagus Nerve Stimulation: Changing the Paradigm for Chronic Severe Depression?

Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2018 Sep;41(3):409-418. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2018.05.001.


Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has been studied for its effect on treatment-resistant depression. Open-label studies have shown a significant positive effect in an especially treatment-resistant depressive population. Insurance company support for VNS has been limited but may be reviewed given recent positive open-label data. Coming developments in novel external ways to stimulate the vagus nerve may revive interest in this area. This article reviews the clinical development of VNS starting with the first recognition of its potential for treating depression, parses the results of several large clinical trials, and suggests a future path for optimal clinical development and use.

Keywords: Major depression; Neurostimulation; Treatment-resistant major depression; Vagus nerve stimulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation / adverse effects
  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation / methods*