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How does vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) work?

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A small battery-powered device -- about the size of a silver dollar -- is put in your chest. It works like a pacemaker. A thin wire (placed just under the skin) runs from the device to the large vagus nerve in your neck. The device sends out pulses of electricity into the nerve, which transmits them to the brain.

These electrical impulses can relieve the symptoms of depression. However, it usually takes several months before you feel the effects.

SOURCES: American Psychiatric Association, , 2000. Cadieux, R.J. "Practical Management of Treatment-Resistant Depression," , December 1998. Fochtmann, L.J. and Gelenberg, A.J. , Winter, 2005. Holtzheimer, P.E. "Focal Brain Stimulation for Treatment-Resistant Depression: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Vagus-Nerve Stimulation, and Deep-Brain Stimulation," , February 2005. Keller, M.B., , 2005. Nahas, Z. , September 2005. Stimmel, G. "Options for Treatment-resistant Depression," , July 2002. U.S. Food and Drug Administration web site, "VNS Therapy System".






Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major DepressionAmerican Family PhysicianFocusPrimary PsychiatryJournal of Clinical PsychiatryJournal of Clinical PsychiatryPsychiatric Times

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg on May 11, 2018

SOURCES: American Psychiatric Association, , 2000. Cadieux, R.J. "Practical Management of Treatment-Resistant Depression," , December 1998. Fochtmann, L.J. and Gelenberg, A.J. , Winter, 2005. Holtzheimer, P.E. "Focal Brain Stimulation for Treatment-Resistant Depression: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Vagus-Nerve Stimulation, and Deep-Brain Stimulation," , February 2005. Keller, M.B., , 2005. Nahas, Z. , September 2005. Stimmel, G. "Options for Treatment-resistant Depression," , July 2002. U.S. Food and Drug Administration web site, "VNS Therapy System".






Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major DepressionAmerican Family PhysicianFocusPrimary PsychiatryJournal of Clinical PsychiatryJournal of Clinical PsychiatryPsychiatric Times

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg on May 11, 2018

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What are risks and side effects of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)?

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