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Alice Noris, Paolo Roncon, Simone Peraio, Anna Zicca, Matteo Lenge, Andrea Di Rita, Lorenzo Genitori, and Flavio Giordano

BACKGROUND

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) represents a valid therapeutic option for patients with medically intractable seizures who are not candidates for epilepsy surgery. Even when complete section of the nerve occurs, stimulation applied cranially to the involved nerve segment does not preclude the efficacy of VNS. Complete vagus nerve section with neuroma causing definitive left vocal cord palsy has never been previously reported in the literature.

OBSERVATIONS

Eight years after VNS implant, the patient experienced worsening of seizures; the interrogation of the generator revealed high impedance requiring surgical revision. On surgical exploration, complete left vagus nerve section and a neuroma were found. Vocal cord atrophy was found at immediate postoperative laryngeal inspection as a confirmation of a longstanding lesion. Both of these events might have been caused by direct nerve injury during VNS surgery, and they presented in a delayed fashion.

LESSONS

VNS surgery may be complicated by direct damage to the left vagus nerve, resulting in permanent neurological deficits. A complete section of the nerve also enables an efficacious stimulation if applied cranially to the involved segment. Laryngeal examination should be routinely performed before each VNS surgery to rule out preexisting vocal cord dysfunction.