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Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (t-VNS) and epilepsy: A systematic review of the literature

PainSci » bibliography » Lampros et al 2021
Tags: electrotherapy, random, devices, treatment

Common issues and characteristics relevant to this paper: ?Scientific papers have many common characteristics, flaws, and limitations, and many of these are rarely or never acknowledged in the paper itself, or even by other reviewers. I have reviewed thousands of papers, and described many of these issues literally hundreds of times. Eventually I got sick of repeating myself, and so now I just refer to a list common characteristics, especially flaws. Not every single one of them applies perfectly to every paper, but if something is listed here, it is relevant in some way. Note that in the case of reviews, the issue may apply to the science being reviewed, and not the review itself.

  1. Garbage in, garbage out — not enough good quality data to meaningfully review/analyze.

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

INTRODUCTION: Transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (t-VNS) has been proposed as an alternative method for the treatment of various neurological and psychiatric disorders. Contrary to the classic invasive vagus nerve stimulation (i-VNS), t-VNS does not require surgical intervention. The application of t-VNS for the treatment of epilepsy has been poorly studied. Hence, we performed a systematic review of the literature to elucidate efficacy, adverse effects and technical features of t-VNS in patients with epilepsy. MATERIAL AND METHODS: We systematically searched MEDLINE and SCOPUS databases using the following keywords: [TRANSCUTANEOUS VAGUS NERVE STIMULATION OR TRANSCUTANEOUS VAGAL NERVE STIMULATION] AND [EPILEPSY OR SEIZURES]. We searched for observational studies in English concerning the application of t-VNS for the treatment of epilepsy in humans. The full-text version of relevant studies was obtained and reviewed. Technical parameters of the stimulation, percentage of seizure frequency reduction, QOLIE-31(Quality of Life In Epilepsy-31) and LSSS (Liverpool Seizure Severity Scale) questionnaires and adverse effects were recorded and analyzed. RESULTS: A total of 10 studies with 350 patients were included. Both bilateral and unilateral placement of the electrode were applied. Stimulation frequency varied from 10-30Hz, while treatment intensity was usually adjusted according to patients' preferences and tolerance (around 1mA) and below the pain threshold. In the clinical trials included in our review, the mean seizure frequency reduction varied from 30 to 65%. Eight and four studies provided information about QOLIE-31 and LSSS questionnaires respectively. Three studies reported a statistically significant (p<0,05) improvement in patients' quality of life and two studies reported statistically significant (p<0,05) seizure severity reduction. The most common side effect was headache (8,9%), followed by skin irritation at the placement site (7,1%) and nasopharyngitis (5,1%). No serious or life-threatening side effects were reported. CONCLUSION: Due to the heterogeneity of the included studies, no safe conclusions could be extracted concerning the efficacy of t-VNS. However, the results of this review suggest that patients with epilepsy could possibly benefit from the use of t-VNS. The present study also emphasizes the limitations of previous clinical trials concerning the applications of t-VNS in people with epilepsy and thus could be a guidance for the conduction of future trials.

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