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Original Article
November 2002

Vagus Nerve Stimulator Implantation in Children

Author Affiliations

From the Divisions of Pediatric Otolaryngology (Drs Kirse, Werle, Eyen, and Bruegger), Pediatric Neurology (Drs Murphy and Torkelson), and Pediatric Neurosurgery (Dr Hornig), Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, Kansas City, Mo. Dr Kirse is now with the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Brenner Children's Hospital and Health Services, Winston-Salem, NC. Dr Werle is now with the Department of Pediatric Otolaryngology, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2002;128(11):1263-1268. doi:10.1001/archotol.128.11.1263

Background  Vagus nerve stimulation was approved in 1997 as an adjunctive treatment of partial-onset seizures refractory to medical therapy. Subsequent to the initial clinical trials, few studies have been published specifically addressing perioperative management issues.

Objectives  To review the operative technique and perioperative management of patients undergoing vagus nerve stimulator implantation and to analyze complications and their management.

Design  Retrospective medical record review and survey of patients who underwent implantation.

Setting  A tertiary care pediatric hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Patients  One hundred two patients aged 21 months to 40 years.

Intervention  Vagus nerve stimulator implantation and lead placement.

Main Outcome Measures  The surgical technique of vagus nerve stimulator implantation is presented in detail. Perioperative complications are enumerated, and strategies for their management are described. A subjective patient survey addresses some quality-of-life issues and the effect on swallowing and voice.

Results  One hundred two patients successfully underwent vagus nerve stimulator implantation. Three patients experienced infection of the chest wound holding the generator and required explantation. These 3 patients underwent reimplantation within 2 months after the infection had cleared. Most patients experience some degree of hoarseness when the generator is activated, but this symptom usually does not significantly affect the ability to communicate. Responses to questions regarding quality of life are positive.

Conclusions  Vagus nerve stimulator implantation has a low incidence of serious complications. Quality of life seems to be improved for most patients. Modifications to the surgical procedure must be considered when performing the implantation on a young patient.