The authors conducted a study to evaluate the published results of vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) for medically refractory seizures according to evidence-based criteria.
The authors performed a review of available literature published between 1980 and 2010. Inclusion criteria for articles included more than 10 patients evaluated, average follow-up of 1 or more years, inclusion of medically refractory epilepsy, and consistent preoperative surgical evaluation. Articles were divided into 4 classes of evidence according to criteria established by the American Academy of Neurology.
A total of 70 publications were reviewed, of which 20 were selected for review based on inclusion and exclusion criteria. There were 2 articles that provided Class I evidence, 7 that met criteria for Class II evidence, and 11 that provided Class III evidence.
The majority of evidence supports VNS usage in partial epilepsy with a seizure reduction of 50% or more in the majority of cases and freedom from seizure in 6%–27% of patients who responded to stimulation. High stimulation with a gradual increase in VNS stimulation over the first 6 weeks to 3 months postoperatively is well supported by Class I and II data. Predictors of positive response included absence of bilateral interictal epileptiform activity and cortical malformations.
Vagal nerve stimulation is a safe and effective alternative for adult and pediatric populations with epilepsy refractory to medical and other surgical management.