Some children are not candidates for surgery if they suffer from certain types of seizures:
Seizures that begin in several areas of the brain
Seizures that spread to both sides of the brain
Seizures that are not well controlled, after trying several medications
In these cases, surgeons may try an alternative involving the vagus nerve, which is a nerve that starts in the brainstem and goes down the neck and into the chest. Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is an alternative for children whose seizures are not well-controlled with medications and who are not candidates for a brain operation to eliminate seizures. The VNS surgery is performed at the main hospital by Lurie Children's epilepsy neurosurgeon. The battery-operated vagal nerve stimulator is put in under the skin on the child’s left side of the chest near the armpit. During surgery, the neurosurgeon implants the stimulator and tunnels its wires under the skin to the vagus nerve in the neck.
The Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Clinic at Lurie Children’s monitors patients receiving VNS therapy for epilepsy, and collects data on VNS efficacy and tolerability. After the area heals, the health care providers in VNS clinic may adjust the stimulator setting. It delivers a gentle intermittent current to the vagus nerve to prevent seizures. If a child senses a seizure is imminent, or the parent observes the warning signs, they can place a magnet over the child’s body where the stimulator is located. This can prevent the seizure from starting. The stimulator’s battery needs changing every few years.
Your child can see our neurosurgeons for a pre-operative visit in either location to learn about the VNS. In addition, your child will be scheduled for regular follow-up visits in the VNS clinic after surgery for VNS programming and monitoring.