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Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

Approved by the Federal Drug Administration for treatment of chronic or recurrent depression in July 2005, this stimulator therapy has actually been approved and available for the treatment of epilepsy for nearly ten years. During clinical trials for this antidepressant therapy, approximately one-third of the patients suffering from drug resistant depression experienced improvement in their depression scores.

This small pacemaker device delivers intermittent, preprogrammed, mild electrical impulses to the vagus nerve 24 hours a day and is implanted beneath the skin, under the clavicle. The impulses are sent to the brain via wires that are connected to the vagus nerve in the neck region.

Many insurance health plans, including Medicare do not provide coverage for VNS for treatment-resistant depression. Costs for VNS therapy include physician office visits, surgical and hospital costs associated with the implantation procedure, the cost of the device, and follow up visits for programming of the device.