Vagus nerve stimulation for focal seizures

Panebianco, Mariangela ORCID: 0000-0001-8956-5486, Rigby, Alexandra and Marson, Anthony G ORCID: 0000-0002-6861-8806
(2022) Vagus nerve stimulation for focal seizures. COCHRANE DATABASE OF SYSTEMATIC REVIEWS, 7 (7). CD002896-.

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<h4>Background</h4>This is an updated version of the Cochrane Review published in 2015. Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder, characterised by recurring, unprovoked seizures. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a neuromodulatory treatment that is used as an adjunctive therapy for treating people with drug-resistant epilepsy. VNS consists of chronic, intermittent electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve, delivered by a programmable pulse generator.<h4>Objectives</h4>To evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of VNS when used as add-on treatment for people with drug-resistant focal epilepsy.<h4>Search methods</h4>For this update, we searched the Cochrane Register of Studies (CRS), and MEDLINE Ovid on 3 March 2022. We imposed no language restrictions. CRS Web includes randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials from the Specialised Registers of Cochrane Review Groups, including Epilepsy, CENTRAL, PubMed, Embase,, and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform.<h4>Selection criteria</h4>We considered parallel or cross-over, randomised, double-blind, controlled trials of VNS as add-on treatment, which compared high- and low-level stimulation (including three different stimulation paradigms: rapid, mild, and slow duty-cycle), and VNS stimulation versus no stimulation, or a different intervention. We considered adults or children with drug-resistant focal seizures who were either not eligible for surgery, or who had failed surgery.<h4>Data collection and analysis</h4>We followed standard Cochrane methods, assessing the following outcomes: 1. 50% or greater reduction in seizure frequency 2. Treatment withdrawal (any reason) 3. Adverse effects 4. Quality of life (QoL) 5. Cognition 6. Mood<h4>Main results</h4>We did not identify any new studies for this update, therefore, the conclusions are unchanged. We included the five randomised controlled trials (RCT) from the last update, with a total of 439 participants. The baseline phase ranged from 4 to 12 weeks, and double-blind treatment phases from 12 to 20 weeks. We rated two studies at an overall low risk of bias, and three at an overall unclear risk of bias, due to lack of reported information about study design. Effective blinding of studies of VNS is difficult, due to the frequency of stimulation-related side effects, such as voice alteration. The risk ratio (RR) for 50% or greater reduction in seizure frequency was 1.73 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.13 to 2.64; 4 RCTs, 373 participants; moderate-certainty evidence), showing that high frequency VNS was over one and a half times more effective than low frequency VNS. The RR for treatment withdrawal was 2.56 (95% CI 0.51 to 12.71; 4 RCTs, 375 participants; low-certainty evidence). Results for the top five reported adverse events were: hoarseness RR 2.17 (99% CI 1.49 to 3.17; 3 RCTs, 330 participants; moderate-certainty evidence); cough RR 1.09 (99% CI 0.74 to 1.62; 3 RCTs, 334 participants; moderate-certainty evidence); dyspnoea RR 2.45 (99% CI 1.07 to 5.60; 3 RCTs, 312 participants; low-certainty evidence); pain RR 1.01 (99% CI 0.60 to 1.68; 2 RCTs; 312 participants; moderate-certainty evidence); paraesthesia 0.78 (99% CI 0.39 to 1.53; 2 RCTs, 312 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). Results from two studies (312 participants) showed that a small number of favourable QOL effects were associated with VNS stimulation, but results were inconclusive between high- and low-level stimulation groups. One study (198 participants) found inconclusive results between high- and low-level stimulation for cognition on all measures used. One study (114 participants) found the majority of participants showed an improvement in mood on the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale compared to baseline, but results between high- and low-level stimulation were inconclusive. We found no important heterogeneity between studies for any of the outcomes.<h4>Authors' conclusions</h4>VNS for focal seizures appears to be an effective and well-tolerated treatment. Results of the overall efficacy analysis show that high-level stimulation reduced the frequency of seizures better than low-level stimulation. There were very few withdrawals, which suggests that VNS is well tolerated. Adverse effects associated with implantation and stimulation were primarily hoarseness, cough, dyspnoea, pain, paraesthesia, nausea, and headache, with hoarseness and dyspnoea more likely to occur with high-level stimulation than low-level stimulation. However, the evidence for these outcomes is limited, and of moderate to low certainty. Further high-quality research is needed to fully evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of VNS for drug-resistant focal seizures.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Drug Resistance, Epilepsies, Partial [*therapy], Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Vagus Nerve, Vagus Nerve Stimulation [*methods], Adult, Humans
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2022 15:22
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2024 21:16
DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002896.pub3
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