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Vagus Nerve Stimulator

There are many ways to treat epilepsy and how each treatment works varies from one patient to another. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a form of treatment for epilepsy for people whose seizures are not controlled with medication.

VNS is a type of treatment that involves a stimulator being implanted inside the body, usually under the left armpit. This generates a pulse to the left vagus nerve through a lead that is wrapped around it. The stimulator sends regular, mild electrical stimulations to the nerve. The signal travels into parts of the brain that control electrical activity and can have a beneficial effect in terms of seizures.

It does not cure epilepsy but, over time, the stimulus for some people re-educates the nerve and seizures can become less frequent. For others it may reduce seizures and for others it has no beneficial effect. It may also reduce the time it takes to recover from a seizure.

The benefits of VNS are not immediate, but can take up to two years to take effect.

Muir Maxwell benefited from a VNS implant in 2002. Although the implant has not controlled or reduced his seizures, his recovery from seizures has been greatly improved. Muir was one of the first children in Scotland to receive VNS treatment and mum, Ann, gave her permission for his surgery to be filmed for the purpose of training.

The Muir Maxwell Trust has supported Fable in Sheffield with funding for two VNS implants and the cost of surgery.