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Study Probes Epilepsy Treatment for Kids

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Found to Cut Epilepsy-Related Hospital Visits
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Aug. 31, 2005 -- When kids with epilepsy don't respond to epilepsy medications, does another treatment called vagus nerve stimulation help?

Researchers including Juliann Paolicchi, MD, are studying that question. Their findings were presented in Paris at the 26th International Epilepsy Congress.

Paolicchi directs the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Columbus Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. She is also an associate professor at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health.

About Vagus Nerve Stimulation

In vagus nerve stimulationvagus nerve stimulation doctors implant a stimulator in the chest, which is attached to wires under the skin to the vagus nerve, a large nerve in the patient's neck. The stimulator sends electrical impulses to the brain to help reduce or stop seizures.

Vagus nerve stimulation was approved in 1997 for people aged 12 and older who have intractable partial epilepsy (focal seizures that don't respond to medication).

But it's often offered as an option for younger patients and those with different types of epilepsy that don't respond to medicine, write Paolicchi and colleagues.

The researchers studied data on vagus nerve stimulation in about 75 kids younger than age 18. All of the kids had the procedure done at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.

Study's Findings

  • Epilepsy-related hospital visits fell by 41% in kids who got vagus nerve stimulation.
  • The kids were about 9.5 years old, on average, when the implantation was done.
  • More than half (59%) of the children in the database didn't have partial epilepsy (focal seizures activity in one part of the brain).
  • Only four patients had side effects that required stopping the therapy. Those side effects were gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), vomiting, infection at the implantation site, and worsening of seizure. Each of the four affected patients had one of those conditions.

The frequency of all seizure types combined didn't drop notably over time, but the researchers plan to analyze different types of seizures to get more specific results.

"For families of children with intractable epilepsy, less time spent in the hospital has a significant, positive impact socially and financially by reducing the loss of parental working time, the patients' school absences, and family stressors relating to caring for a hospitalized child," write the researchers.

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