Nov 24, 2008

Vagus Nerve Stimulation, Does it Work?

Daban and coauthors recently reviewed data on efficacy of VNS in theJournal of Affective Disorders:

Objective: The main objective of this review of the literature was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) in treatment-resistant depression (TRD) by means of systematic review and meta-analysis.
Methods: A systematic review of the literature was made using the major databases (Medline, Psychological Abstracts, Current Contents), beginning in January 2000 and ending in September 2007. Ninety-eight references were found, but only 18 add-on studies met the required quality criteria and were included in this review. Only one double-blind, randomized study was available and therefore a meta-analysis was not feasible.
Results: In a majority of the preliminary open studies selected for this review, VNS was associated with a significant reduction of the depressive symptoms (primary outcome: Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, HDRS) in the short and long term. Unfortunately, the only double-blind study gave rather inconclusive results. Generally, VNS is reported to be a safe and feasible procedure, despite its invasive nature.
Conclusions: VNS seems to be an interesting new approach to treating TRD. However, despite the promising results reported mainly in open studies, further clinical trials are needed to confirm its efficacy in major depression. Moreover, studies on its mechanism of action and cost-effectiveness are also required to better understand and develop VNS therapy for affective disorder.