Vagal Nerve Stimulation: Indications, Implantation, and Outcomes

Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2020 Feb;53(1):127-143. doi: 10.1016/j.otc.2019.09.008. Epub 2019 Nov 1.


Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy is a surgical treatment that involves the implantation of a device to electrically stimulate the vagus nerve. It is indicated as an adjunctive treatment of epilepsy that is refractory to antiepileptic medications and for treatment-resistant depression. The exact mechanism by which VNS achieves its effects is not known, but various mechanisms have been proposed, including afferent vagal projections to seizure-generating regions of the brain and desynchronization of hypersynchronized cortical activity. The most common complications of VNS therapy include hoarseness, throat pain/dysphagia, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Keywords: Depression; Epilepsy; Intractable; Seizure; Treatment resistant; VNS; Vagal nerve stimulation; Vagus nerve.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / therapy*
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy / therapy*
  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Hoarseness / etiology
  • Humans
  • Implantable Neurostimulators*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation / adverse effects
  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation / methods*