Many patients with epilepsy suffer from persistent seizures despite maximal antiepileptic drug (AED) therapy. Chronic, intermittent vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has proven to be a safe, effective option for patients suffering from refractory seizures who are not candidates for surgical resection. Although only a small minority of patients will be entirely seizure-free, VNS as an adjunct to medical therapy does appear to provide a significant amount of improvement in quality of life. Reports of antidepressant effects independent of seizure control, along with the use of multiple AEDs in the treatment of depression, has led to the investigation of VNS as a potential adjunctive treatment for major depressive disorder. Both the number of severely depressed patients refractory to available pharmacologic options and the need for repeated treatments and significant side effects associated with electroconvulsive therapy have heightened the interest in VNS for this patient population. Pilot studies of VNS for depression have shown impressive response rates; however, the effect appears to be gradual in onset, as demonstrated by the lack of a favorable response in a short-term, randomized controlled study. Investigation is thus needed to establish the potential role of VNS as an adjunctive treatment for severe depression.
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View details for PubMedID 18164486