Stimulation of the nervous system for the management of seizures: Current and future developments

Jerome V. Murphy, Arun Angelo Patil

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

33 Scopus citations

Abstract

Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) for the treatment of refractory epilepsy appears to have started from the theory that since VNS can alter the EEG, it may influence epilepsy. It proved effective in several models of epilepsy and was then tried in short-term, open-label and double-blind trials, leading to approval in Canada, Europe and the US. Follow-up observations in these patients demonstrated continued improvement in seizure control for up to 2 years. Close to 50% of treated patients have achieved at least a 50% reduction in seizure frequency. This therapy was also useful as rescue therapy for ongoing seizures in some patients; many patients are more alert. The initial trials were completed in patients ±12 years of age with refractory partial seizures. Subsequently, similar benefits were shown in patients with tuberous sclerosis complex, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, hypothalamic hamartomas and primary generalised seizures. Implanting the generator and leads is technically easy, and complications are few. The method of action is largely unknown, although VNS appears to alter metabolic activity in specific brain nuclei. Considering that improvement in mood is frequently found in patients using VNS, it has undergone trials in patients with depression. Other illnesses deserving exploration with this unusual therapy are Alzheimer's disease and autism. Some aspects of VNS have proven disappointing. Although patients have fewer seizures, the number of antiepileptic drugs they take is not significantly reduced. In addition, there is no way to accurately predict the end of life of the generator. Optimal stimulation parameters, if they exist, are unknown. Deep brain stimulation is a new method for controlling medically refractory seizures. It is based on the observation that thalamic stimulation can influence the EEG over a wide area. Several thalamic nuclei have been the object of stimulation in different groups of patients. Intraoperative brain imaging is essential for electrode placement. The procedure is done under local anaesthesia. Experience with this therapy is currently limited, but growing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-115
Number of pages15
JournalCNS Drugs
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 19 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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