Epilepsy, a brain disorder that occurs when electrical signals in the brain are disrupted, affects approximately 2.7 million people in the United States. Of this number, more than 325,000 are children. While most of these children respond well to medication, 36% of them do not. For these children, the implantation of a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) is another treatment option to help control or reduce the frequency of their seizures. Now, researchers at Columbus Children's Hospital have demonstrated that using a VNS is not only effective in reducing seizures and epilepsy-related hospital visits, but provides a better quality of life for many of these young epilepsy patients. Results of the study will be presented at the Pediatric Academic Society's annual meeting on April 29 in San Francisco.
Juliann Paolicchi, M.A., M.D., director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Columbus Children's Hospital and associate professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, found in a study of more than 75 VNS patients between the ages of one and 17, that post-implantation hospital utilization for epilepsy-related conditions decreased 41%, and 9.5 times more patients did not require hospitalization.
"By looking at hospitalization rates and the number of trips to emergency rooms for seizure-related injuries, we were able to better quantify how VNS therapy improved our patients’ lives," said Dr. Paolicchi. "After 12 months of therapy, about 42% of our patients saw a seizure reduction of 75%. Any seizures they did have were typically not of the severity that would require a hospital stay or trip to the emergency room. Less time in the hospital has a significant and positive impact on the patient's life by not only reducing the financial burden on the family, but also reducing the amount of time away from school, friends and family."
A VNS is a small pulse generator that is implanted on the left side of a patient's neck and works by sending intermittent signals to the brain to decrease the electrical activity that leads to seizures. These signals occur in regular intervals throughout its implantation until the battery wears out—typically about five years. The device was approved for treatment of intractable partial epilepsy (epilepsy that does not improve with medication) of adults (children greater than 12 years) in 1997. Columbus Children's Hospital was one of the first institutions to begin using VNS in children.
Columbus Children’s Hospital is a 114-year-old pediatric healthcare network which houses the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Columbus Children’s Research Institute (CCRI) at Columbus Children's Hospital ranks among the top 10 in National Institutes of Health research awards to freestanding children’s hospitals in the United States. CCRI has nearly 300,000 square feet of dedicated research space and is organized into 11 research Centers of Emphasis encompassing gene therapy; molecular and human genetics; vaccines and immunity; childhood cancer; cell and vascular biology; developmental pharmacology and toxicology; injury research and policy; microbial pathogenesis; cardiovascular medicine; innovation in pediatric practice and biobehavioral health. More information is available by calling (614) 722-KIDS or through www.columbuschildrens.com.