‘The Doctors’…and the Vagus Nerve Stimulator

I owe a huge thank you to everyone who complimented the segment I participated in on yesterday’s The Doctors. I was especially fond of Dr. Marie Atkinson’s appearance and her interview. For anyone who might be considering the Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS), she gave a great explanation of how the device works and how someone living with Epilepsy might live with the device.

If you haven’t seen the show, here is a link: The Doctors, May 19, 2010.

There was obviously limited time to discuss the device and how it works, but I did receive some questions via email and Facebook. I thought I might clarify a few things. And, please note…this is MY experience with the VNS. As I like to say, everyone’s Epilepsy is different and it’s best to discuss your options with your neurologist. But, as to what it has done for me…

*I have NO pain when the VNS activates. Yes, I do feel or sense the device ‘going off’ in my neck, but I’ve become so accustomed to having it, it’s really a non-issue for me.

*The surgery to implant the device is not long. Mine was about 4-5 hours.


*The scarring is minimal. I have two scars, one over my left breast which is about 1 1/2 inches, and one on my neck which is about 2 inches. I can barely see the scar on my neck, it blends into the natural folds of my neck.

*The battery must be changed only once every few years.

*In the 15 months since my implant, I have never set off any store alarms, metal detectors or security systems in airports. There is a misconception that the device is so highly sensitive that you will set alarms blaring wherever you go. This is NOT true!

*It is true, I sleep with 3 feather pillows so my head is propped a bit higher than the average ‘sleeper’. But again, you become very accustomed to this.

*I do still take anti-seizure medication. But, my dosage is reduced because of my success with the VNS.

*I do carry my magnet. This is a must if you have an aura.

*I am not seizure-free, and I don’t expect to be. But, I do believe I’ve had success with the VNS with about a 65% reduction in seizures.

*My ‘recovery’ or bounce-back from seizures is much better with the VNS. In other words, after I do suffer a seizure or series of seizures, I am able to recover much more quickly. Again…this might not be typical, but this happens with me.

If you have additional questions, ask you neurologist. Or, I’m happy to answer any questions when it comes to MY experience with the Vagus Nerve Stimulator.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda DeHaan May 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I met you at the legislative breakfast and saw you yesterday. I too have the VNS. I have had it only since February and have had some pain but I am getting used to the device. When they saw you learn to live with the device it is true. I am so proud of your story on the doctors and at the breakfast. I have been assigned as the advocate for our post surgical group here in Grand Rapids. So keep up the good work. I told people about your blog so you may be hearing from some of our group.

Shannon S February 22, 2012 at 9:14 am

I live in Havelock NC. I had the stimulator implanted in 2007 and have enjoyed it ever since. My implant was not for epilepsy but for sever chronic depression. The only psychiatrist in my area that keeps track of my implant got into some trouble and now he can’t take any patients with medicare and medicaid. I am desperate to find a doctor somewhere as close as possible to my area. In a couple of weeks I will have to go into Day Surgery to replace my battery but right now I’m unsure about doing this procedure since I haven’t had a doctor to keep up with my vns in almost a year. Since the VNS has stopped working I’ve noticed that I am starting to go through a deep spiral of depression. I absolutely need the VNS but it’s no help to me if I can’t find a doctor to monitor it. If there is someone out there who knows of a doctor that can help me after the surgery, PLEASE email me back. I really need help and guidance with this problem.

Bernice February 27, 2013 at 3:32 am

Is this device availible in South Africa Yet?

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