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VNS Therapy Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to commonly asked questions about VNS Therapy

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Frequently Asked Questions

VNS Therapy™ FAQs

What is VNS Therapy™?

VNS Therapy is a non-pharmacological treatment and stands for Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy.

The VNS Therapy System consists of a small generator that is implanted under the skin in the chest and connected by a lead to the left vagus nerve in the neck. VNS Therapy delivers mild pulses to the brain through the vagus nerve to modulate established pathways involved in depression.

VNS Therapy is not brain surgery.

Why has my psychiatrist suggested VNS Therapy™?

Many people have depression. Through the years, doctors and scientists have learned much about depression. They have developed drugs and other treatments. Despite these efforts, some people still have depression. Your doctor has proposed the VNS Therapy System for you to reduce the symptoms of your depression because other treatments have failed to control them adequately.

Can I still take other antidepressant medication?

VNS Therapy™ is as an adjunctive treatment - this means that it is given along with your normal treatments and medications. 

Always follow your doctor’s instructions regarding your treatments and medications.

Will I be able to tell when the stimulator is on?

Many people note a change in their voice (often described as hoarseness) or discomfort in the neck (typically mild pain or a tingling sensation) during stimulation. In general, most side effects become less noticeable over time.

What are the side effects?

The most common side effects with VNS Therapy are:

  • Hoarseness or changes in voice
  • Prickling or tingling in the skin
  • Sore throat
  • Increased coughing
  • Shortness of breath

These side effects generally only occur during stimulation and are less noticeable over time.

The most commonly reported side effect from the implant procedure is infection.

How long does the battery last?

The battery can last for more than 10 years*, depending on the device settings.

*The estimated battery longevity for Symmetry device set to  - 1.5mA output current, 20Hz signal frequency, 250 microseconds pulse width and a 10% duty cycle. The battery longevity will vary depending on the programmed settings.

Why do I have a VNS Therapy™ magnet?

The VNS Therapy magnet can be placed over the device to temporarily stop stimulation.

When should I use the magnet?

You can use the magnet to stop stimulation temporarily for certain activities e.g. singing or public speaking (if stimulation bothers you when you do this), when you are eating (if you have swallowing problems), or if stimulation becomes uncomfortable or painful.

If you need to use the magnet for any of these reasons or any other reason, inform your physician.

Can any magnet be used?

Only the VNS Therapy magnet should be used with your VNS Therapy System. If you lose your magnet or need extra magnets, contact your doctor.

In an emergency, you may try other strong magnets. The use of other magnets will not harm the neurostimulator, but there is no way to know in advance whether a magnet other than the VNS Therapy magnet will work.

If you're struggling with depression that is difficult to treat, get well and stay well with VNS Therapy™ 

Speak to your psychiatrist about VNS Therapy™