VNS therapy (Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy System), described in our earlier post, has been approved by the FDA for treatment of medically refractory depression. From the USA Today article:
The government on Friday approved a new therapy for the severely depressed who have run out of treatment options: a pacemaker-like implant that sends tiny electric shocks to the brain.
The Food and Drug Administration’s clearance opens Cyberonics Inc.’s vagus nerve stimulator, or VNS, as a potential treatment for an estimated 4 million Americans with hard-to-treat depression–despite controversy over whether it’s really been proven to work.
“These are patients pretty much at the end of the line in terms of what treatment options are available to them,” said FDA medical device chief Dr. Daniel Schultz, who said he personally was persuaded by Cyberonics’ research despite initial skepticism within his agency.
The pacemaker-like implant has been sold since 1997 to control intractable epilepsy, a much smaller market.
A generator the size of a pocket watch is implanted into the chest. Wires snake up the neck to the vagus nerve, delivering tiny electric shocks through that nerve and into a region of the brain thought to play a role in mood.