New Treatment Option for Severe Depression
US FDA Approves the Vagus Nerve Stimulator

August 15, 2005

On July 15, 2005, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new treatment for people affected by severe depression: an implanted device that sends electrical shocks to the vagus nerve.

The "Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy System (VNS) is manufactured by Cyberonics, Inc., and was approved in 1997 to treat epilepsy. The VNS must be surgically implanted in the chest with wires connecting a pulse generator to the vagus nerve in the patient's neck. Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve is thought to relieve depression by sending signals to brain areas important for mood. These signals may affect neurotransmitter activity in the brain.

Did you know?

  • Possible side effects of VNS include voice changes, breathing problems and difficulty swallowing.
  • VNS Therapy is not for all patients. Rather, it is only for people with severe depression who do not respond to other treatments.
  • The VNS costs about $15,000.

References and more information about VNS Therapy:

  1. VNS Therapy - from Cyberonics, Inc.

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