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Complications of vagal nerve stimulation for epilepsy in children

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Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) is a surgical option to treat drug-resistant epilepsy. A few side effects have been described, mainly as anecdotal reports. We analysed our material concerning a juvenile population to identify the most common and most important complications, discussing them with the literature. Thirty-six patients were studied (18 months–18 years old). The children were assessed before the VNS implant and 3, 6, 12, 24 and 36 months after surgery. The mean follow-up was 30 months. Four patients required a second surgery: two for changing the device 3 years after implant; one for revision of an imperfect implant; one for removing a non-functioning device. In one patient a transient vocal cord paralysis was observed. Hoarseness was the main complaint (38.8%). More infrequent was mild sleep apnoea (8.3%), sternocleidomastoid muscle spasm, drooling and snoring in one patient each. Skin scars were reported with a different frequency according to the surgical technique. At variance with the literature reports, we did not observe infections. Side effects of VNS can be minimised, but not avoided completely, with a correct technical procedure, which in turn depends upon a thorough knowledge of vagus nerve anatomy.

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Correspondence to A. Ducati.

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Rychlicki, F., Zamponi, N., Cesaroni, E. et al. Complications of vagal nerve stimulation for epilepsy in children. Neurosurg Rev 29, 103–107 (2006).

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