13. Mechanism of Action and Overview of Vagus Nerve Stimulation Technology

  1. Sam Eljamel2 and
  2. Konstantin V. Slavin3
  1. Sam Eljamel

Published Online: 19 JUL 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118346396.ch13

Neurostimulation: Principles and Practice

Neurostimulation: Principles and Practice

How to Cite

Eljamel, S. (2013) Mechanism of Action and Overview of Vagus Nerve Stimulation Technology, in Neurostimulation: Principles and Practice (eds S. Eljamel and K. V. Slavin), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118346396.ch13

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Centre for Neurosciences, Ninewells Hospital & Medical School, Dundee, Scotland, UK

  2. 3

    Department of Neurosurgery, University of Illinois at Chicago. Chicago, Illinois, USA

Author Information

  1. University of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 19 JUL 2013
  2. Published Print: 19 AUG 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781118346358

Online ISBN: 9781118346396



  • treatment refractory epilepsy;
  • treatment refractory major depression;
  • vagal nerve stimulation components;
  • vagal nerve therapy;
  • vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)


The proposed mechanism of action of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) includes: alteration of epinephrine release by projections of solitary tract to locus coeruleus in the medulla oblongata; and elevation of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain stem. Approved VNS indications include treatment refractory epilepsy and treatment refractory major depression. Adverse events (AEs) related to VNS treatment of epilepsy were hoarseness (56%), paresthesia (29%), dyspnea (27%), coughing (23%), throat pain (8%), headache (8%), hypophonia (4%), vocal cord paralysis (4%), sensation of throat constriction (2%), abdominal pain (2%), jaw pain (2%), double vision (2%), flushing (2%), and agitation (2%). VNS consists of components surgically implanted by the surgeon and external components to communicate with the implanted device.