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VNS alleviates chronic anxiety in pilot study

Researchers at MUSC and three other universities announced the results of a four-year pilot study involving the long-term response to Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Therapy as an add-on treatment in patients with treatment-resistant anxiety disorders. The study, led by Mark S. George, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Radiology and Neurosciences, appeared in the second issue of peer-reviewed Brain Stimulation (
“Despite the availability of many treatments for anxiety disorders, only a minority of patients experience treatment-response, especially with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),” George said. “Data suggests VNS therapy might be a potential long-term treatment for anxiety disorders. We are encouraged to see the unique benefits of VNS therapy for patients with treatment-resistant anxiety disorders.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Admini-stration approved VNS therapy in 2005 as an adjunctive long-term treatment for chronic or recurrent depression for patients (18 years of age or older) who are experiencing a major depressive episode and have not had an adequate reaction to four or more antidepressant treatments.
VNS therapy is delivered from a small pacemaker-like device implanted in the chest area that sends mild pulses to the brain via the vagus nerve in the neck. It is the only device ever studied and approved for treatment-resistant depression
The study, which focused on patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder, demonstrated VNS therapy was well tolerated by a small group of participants. In addition, patients who received adjunctive open-label VNS continued to experience significant long-term improvements.
Editor’s note: For information contact Megan Fink, at


Friday, June 27, 2008
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