Short-term effects of transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation on T-wave alternans in people with focal epilepsy - An exploratory pilot study

Epilepsy Behav Rep. 2024 Mar 5:26:100657. doi: 10.1016/j.ebr.2024.100657. eCollection 2024.


High levels of T-wave alternans (TWA) are linked to an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. People with epilepsy display elevated TWA levels that are decreased by chronic vagus nerve stimulation via implanted devices after 2-4 weeks or later. Our objective was to explore short-term effects of transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) on TWA. Five patients (3 female) with focal epilepsy undergoing video-EEG monitoring were included. TWA levels were determined using a one-channel modified lead I ECG via an open-source TWA-algorithm on two consecutive days, 1 h before, during and after tVNS via the left auricle. Data are given as mean ± SE. Mean TWA at baseline was 3.8 ± 0.4 µV and 3.0 ± 0.6 µV during stimulation on day 2. Stimulations on the second day were associated with TWA reductions by 22 ± 13 % that exceeded stimulation effects on the first day relative to baseline (p < 0.05). Linear mixed-models revealed effects of both stimulation (p < 0.05) and stimulation number (p < 0.005). Normalized TWA showed reproducible peak reductions at both days within 35 min after the initiation of tVNS (p < 0.05). Our observations suggest that tVNS has short-term effects on TWA, supporting the notion that vagus nerve stimulation has a beneficial impact on electrical cardiac properties.

Keywords: Cardioprotective therapy; Chronic epilepsy; Neuromodulation; Sudden cardiac death; T-wave alternans; Vagus nerve stimulation.