A new study shows that patients who’s epilepsy does not respond to medication (refractory epilepsy) and are either rejected from surgery candidacy, or choose not to undergo focal epilepsy surgery, can still achieve positive outcomes and freedom from seizures through the use of the VNS.
The research was conducted at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Israel. The study compared the outcomes and characteristics of patients who did not have surgery who continued on their normal medications and treatments with those who underwent vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) implantation in addition to their pre-prescribed medical therapy.
Fifty-two patients who continued solely on medical therapy and 35 patients who additionally underwent VNS implantation were included in the study. Forty-seven of the former and 33 of the latter agreed to be interviewed. There was a significant improvement in the seizure frequency between the time of the presurgical evaluation and the time of the interview in both groups. Eight medically treated patients (17%) and 2 patients who also underwent VNS implantation (6%) reported being seizure-free during the preceding 3 months. – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ane.12311/abstract
The research found that in this relatively small test group, that both groups of patients who did not get surgery had potential for improvement, either with the VNS or through continuing their treatment plan. While the actual percentages seem small, it is still significant and encouraging. Note that the VNS also requires a small surgery to implant, but the procedure carries significantly less risk and often significantly less recovery time than brain surgery.
Epilepsy surgery remains much more effective than either continuing the meds, or implementing a VNS in those who are good candidates:
When a well-described area in the temporal lobes is identified as the source of the seizures, around 60% of patients became free of disabling seizures after surgery versus only 8% of patients treated with medications. In general, around 60 – 80% of patients are seizure free 1 – 2 years after surgery. –http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/epilepsy/surgery.html
While surgery is the closest thing we have to a “cure” for those with Focal, Refractory Epilepsy, being rejected from, or choosing not to undergo the surgery does not mean that your condition will not improve. Stay positive, follow your treatment plan, consider the VNS and hopefully you will soon experience freedom from seizures.