North Shore-LIJ’s Cynthia L. Harden, MD, Senior-Authors Updated Guidelines for Vagus Nerve Stimulation for Epilepsy



Cynthia L. Harden, MD, North Shore-LIJ’s chief, Division of Epilepsy and Electroencephalography and director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center, served as senior author of “Evidence-based Guideline Update: Vagus Nerve Stimulation for the Treatment of Epilepsy,” published August 28, 2013, in the online issue of Neurology and to appear in the journal’s hard copy on October 15, 2013.  The work updates a 1999 AAN guideline on this topic.

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a therapy that sends electrical signals to the brain.  A small device called a vagus nerve stimulator is implanted into the body through the left side of the chest.  The device produces repeating, low-level pulses of electrical current.  It is connected to a wire attached to the vagus nerve.  Nerves carry messages to and from the brain and other parts of the body and one path goes from the neck up to the brain.  VNS therapy uses this path to send electric signals to the brain which may help to reduce the number of seizures.

“According to the newly updated guidelines, VNS may help as adjunctive therapy in children and adults (12 years and older) with partial or generalized epilepsy or with patients who have a rare and serious form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome,” said Dr. Harden. “Based on the data from 14 Class III studies, we found that VNS was effective in achieving more than a 50 percent seizure rate reduction.  We also found that VNS may be considered progressively effective in patients over multiple years of exposure.”

For the complete updated guidelines, go to

For more information about vagus nerve stimulation and other treatments for epilepsy, click here.