Feasibility and Safety of Vagal Stimulation In Monkey Model


Department of Psychology (NI-25), University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, U.S.A.


Summary: The feasibility, safety, and preliminary effects of chronic vagal stimulation were studied in an alumina-gel monkey model. Pilot studies to perfect the equipment, determine stimulation thresholds, and insure the comfort and safety of the animals preceded this study. Four monkeys were equipped with an indwelling, 2-electrode cuff (titanium bands spaced 7 mm apart; silicone encased; 1.5 cm total length) in contact around the right vagus nerve; avoidance of the cardiac branch was confirmed by electrocardiograms. After postsurgical recovery, the intact and awake animals received constant-current stimulation (5 mA; 83 Hz, 143 Hz, or 50–250 Hz randomly; 0.5-ms pulse width) at the onset of every spontaneous seizure for the duration of the seizure or every 3 h for 40 s if stimulation had not occurred in the preceding hour. Stimulation periods of 2–6 weeks, with differing levels of stimulation, were preceded and followed by at least a 2-week baseline period of no stimulation. During the stimulation periods, the seizure rate decreased to zero in two monkeys and the interseizure intervals became invariable in the remaining two monkeys. These effects carried over temporarily into the poststimulation baseline periods. Vagal stimulation had no consistent effects on seizure severity or EEG interictal spikes. Histological studies of six vagus nerves were unable to separate electrode cuff damage from any direct effects stimulation may have had on the nerves. Although it appears that chronic vagal stimulation is feasible and that epileptogenic processes are influenced, the safety and efficacy of the procedure are still in question.