VNS Surgery - What is it?
The surgery takes about 2 hours followed by a 1 to 3 day hospital stay depending upon complications. The device that they
are implanting is about the size of a stopwatch (1.5" by 1/8" thick). A 4" incision is made in the upper left chest and the
stimulator is implanted there. Once healed it will be visible as small bump in that area.
From the stimulator a thin wire will be attached to a nerve on the left side of his neck. The picture above shows the wire
and the nerve (colored yellow). To implant the wire a 2" incision is made in the neck and the three coils (see picture) are
attached to the nerve. They will turn on the device to test it but them shut it off for two weeks to allow for healing.
Two weeks after surgery the device is turned on via a wireless paddle placed on the chest for 5-10 seconds. Once on, it
will send a signal to the brain every 5 minutes for 30 seconds - 24 hours a day/7 days a week. The only major long term
side effect is a change in speech during the stimulation. The change will be heard as a raspy voice almost like one needs
to clear ones throat. The Vagus nerve has very few pain fibers within it so pain is not a usual side effect. At times during
the first 24-48 hours a person may feel the need to cough while the unit is stimulating but this side effect is transient. The
battery in the VNS is good for 8-10 years at which time it will have to be removed and replaced in a 45 minute outpatient
|What will it do for the Christian?
Over time we hope to reduce some of the medications he takes every day to help stop the seizures. Right now he takes 9
medications a day, which is why he seems tired sometimes. These medications help the seizures but besides making him
tired can make him cranky, feel dizzy, drool, make his walking unsteady and even make him feel sick sometimes.
Hopefully this device will reduce many of his seizures so that we can reduce the amount of medications he takes so that
he can feel better.
|What is a seizure? In very simple terms...
It's like having Cable TV. You are watching a show and everything is cool then the cable goes off the air and you see
"snow" or static. Then a few seconds or minutes later it comes back and you continue watching your show. You missed
what happed in between and depending on how much you missed you are confused and don't understand the show or the
plot anymore or if it was only a brief interruption you continue watching like nothing happened. A seizure works the same
way. Doctors measure 24 areas of the brain to track seizures using a device known as an EEG
(Electro-Encephalo-Graphy). This does not hurt. Below are two pictures ---the left is normal the right is a seizure. In
the normal picture the waves all stay between the lines in each row. In the seizure the waves cross over the lines and
cause "snow" or interference in the other rows.
The Vagus Nerve Stimulator will try and regulate these waves and keep them all in the rows.