Vagus nerve stimulation is used to treat epilepsy and treatment-resistant depression using an implantable device. The device is implanted in the chest under the skin and is connected to the left vagus nerve by a thin wire. Electrical signals are sent through the vagus nerve to the brainstem and then to certain areas in the brain when the device is activated.
Vagus nerve stimulation is helpful for those who have epilepsy and haven’t achieved seizure control with medications and for those with depression who haven’t responded to intensive depression treatments. Current research is determining if it can be used for headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, bipolar disorder, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.