Your University of Minnesota Health MINCEP® Epilepsy Care team includes epileptologists, specially trained neurologists who focus on epilepsy and other seizure disorders, plus psychologists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurse clinicians, pharmacists, neurologists and neurosurgeons who are recognized nationally for their clinical research and innovative care. The MINCEP Epilepsy Care program has been designated a Level 4 Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center in recognition of providing the highest level of complex evaluation, monitoring and treatment.
Implantation of a vagal nerve stimulator requires surgery, usually same-day surgery. A small incision is made in your chest near your collarbone to implant the pulse generator. The lead wire is connected to it and guided under the skin up to your neck, where it is attached to the left vagus nerve through another small incision. A few weeks after surgery, your care provider will turn on the device and adjust the timing and the strength of the pulses to target your specific needs. This is done externally using a programmer and wand that communicate with the implanted device. Most likely, your care provider will program the device to automatically generate impulses at regular intervals. Most people cannot feel these impulses. You will need to visit your doctor periodically to make sure your device is working properly.
You will also be given a magnet that you can use to turn VNS therapy on and off by simply holding it over the implanted pulse generator in your chest. You may wish to turn off therapy while doing activities that may be affected by the therapy, such as singing or speaking in public. If you experience an aura prior to a seizure, you can use the magnet to deliver non-scheduled impulses to shorten the seizure or stop it altogether. The goal of VNS therapy is to reduce the number, length and severity of seizures, not to make seizures go away completely. It is designed to be used along with anti-seizure medications and other treatments, not to replace them. You may not note improvement until three months or longer after the device is implanted. Improvement may continue in subsequent months but complete cessation of seizures is rare.