VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy)

We provide initial diagnostic evaluation and we can proceed with implementation


A pacemaker in order to get back the rhythm of life

Kataweb Salute, 22 July 2005, Prof. Stefano Pallanti




The news that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved a medical apparatus for the treatment of patients with chronic or resistant depression offers a new possibility for many people involved, patients and family members, afflicted by this disease.  


This apparatus, called, VNS, or Vagal Nerve Stimulation, is a pacemaker, which is applied through stimulation of the Vagus Nerve, and can be surgically implanted in the high part of the thorax, then small threads in the neck, where the impulse reaches directly to the brain through the nerve.


Through this action the impulses gradually revitalize the relevant areas of the disturbances connected to the affective symptomology.

This treatment has been authorized since 1997 for the treatment of some forms of epilepsy and the Food and Drug Administration has made known to the manufacturers that now this apparatus is now authorized also for the treatment of those serious cases of depression that do not respond to other types of treatment.

The approval process was really begun following the observation that such implants produced, in patients with epilepsy, an improvement not only of the convulsive disorder but also in mood.

One of the reasons for caution with regards to the implant is connected to the qualm that once inserted, the device is not very easily removable.

Dr. Harold A Sackeim, director of biological psychiatry at New York State Psychiatric Institute, scientific referee of Cyberonics Inc., the factory of Huston producing the stimulators, affirms: “It is our duty to offer this treatment possibility to all patients we are not successful in healing with other treatments.”


In reality the number of treated patients with this new method is modest overall, a few hundreds, but in total about 40% of these, refractory and resistant patients, obtained a satisfactory improvement.  

The approval of the FDA follows an informational supplement that was requested at Cyberonics Inc., August 2004.

There are already testimonials of the first patients treated with this method, Charles Donovan III of St. Louis, said that the stimulator saved his life. “I went from being a complete vegetable, mentally speaking, to a person with newfound energy and confidence,” in fact on this experience he has written a book.

Not all patients with resistant depression can be treated with this Vagus Nerve Stimulator, but only those who correspond with well-defined and codified criteria.

It will be important that these evaluations are performed with particular great care whether because the patients with the greatest possibility of therapeutic success are chosen or also so that this method can have a future and credibility.

The long term side effects are now well-known and do not seem to be particularly worrisome, the most common regard the tone of voice and a light cough which are the expression of the irritation of the of the laryngeal branch of the Vagus Nerve.

In Florence, where there is already a good experience for the treatment of epilepsy with this same method, a program for the treatment of resistant disorders is already underway, and it was spoken about in a review and update day which involved different disciplines from the Department of Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences.

In fact, diverse are the operators involved, consider the multidisciplinary competencies required fort this therapeutic technique. In short we are moving forward with technology applied to medicine, but with examinations and without illusions.