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Keywords:

  • Vagus nerve;
  • Electrical stimulation;
  • Cardiac arrhythmia;
  • Epilepsy;
  • Seizure

Summary: Purposes: A 56-year-old man with mild mental retardation, right congenital hemiparesis, and refractory partial seizures was referred for vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).

Methods: Routine lead diagnostic testing during the surgical procedure (1.0 mA, 20 Hz, and 500 μs, for ˜ 17 s) resulted, during the initial two stimulations, in a bradycardia of ˜30 beats/min. A third attempt led to transient asystole that required atropine and brief cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Results: The procedure was immediately terminated, the device removed, and the patient recovered completely. A postoperative cardiologic evaluation, including an ECG, 24-h Holter monitor, echocardiogram, and a tilt-table test, was normal.

Conclusions: Possible mechanisms for the bradycardia/asystole include stimulation of cervical cardiac branches of the vagus nerve either by collateral current spread or directly by inadvertent placement of the electrodes on one of these branches; improper plugging of the electrodes into the pulse generator, resulting in erratic varying intensity of stimulation; reverse polarity; and idiosyncratic-type reaction in a hypersusceptible individual. The manufacturer reports the occurrence rate in ˜3,500 implants for this intraoperative event to be approximately one in 875 cases or 0.1%.