Medical Technology applied:

Implant of the Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS)

On the 18th of October 2004, I received a Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS) implant, as performed by Dr. S.J. (Charl) Vorster (a Neurosurgeon practising at the Little Co of Mary Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa). This was the 46th operation since my accident ... and I hope the last ...

The primary reason behind a VNS implant, is to serve as an antiepileptic therapy (with epilepsy being one of the results of my brain injury), in the long term replacing the drugs that causes intolerable side effects. It also helps the treatment of depression, cutting out the use of anti-depressants in the form of drugs. Another change that will also take place (that will be life-changing in my case) is an improvement in my memory.

The VNS System consists of implantable components - the VNS Therapy Pulse Generator and VNS Lead, and external components - a computer, the VNS Therapy Software, and the Computer Programming Wand used to change stimulation settings:

The Pulse Generator (or stimulator) is the main component, and similar to cardiac pacemakers, it is computer controlled and battery powered. It sends signals through the electrodes of the Lead to the brain by way of the left vagus nerve to reduce the frequency and duration of seizures.

The Pulse Generator is implanted under the skin on the left side of the upper chest. The Lead, a flexible, insulated tube housing the electrodes, is attached to the left vagus nerve on the left side of the neck. The Pulse Generator and Lead are implanted during a procedure that generally lasts from about 45 minutes to two hours. Later the doctor (or a clinical ...) programs the Pulse Generator to deliver simulation automatically, 24 hours a day. During routine office visits, the stimulation settings can be read and adjusted, using the computer, software and Programming Wand. This reprogramming of the VNS Therapy System is a painless procedure that takes only a few minutes, and is done in the doctor's office.

The "dose" is set to a pulse with a duration of 30 seconds, every 5 minutes.

The electrode is attached to my vagus nerve in my neck (that sends signals directly to my brain), in close proximity of my vocal chords. As a result, my voice tends to become coarse / go away (including an occasional cough), every 5 minutes as the pulse goes through. It's worse immediately after reprogramming, but it improves as my body gets accustomed to the new settings. This is a little bit of a problem when I'm presenting my motivational talks ... but only every 5 minutes!

The Pulse Generator's battery will last up to 15 years, after which it will have to be replaced by yet another surgical procedure.

Sadly, the Vagus Nerve Stimulator Pulse Generator became septic, and had to be surgically removed on the 18th of March 2005.

The VNS has to be sterilised for a minimum period of 6 months, after it will be considered to be implanted again (that is any time from September 2005).

The VNS Pulse Generator was never implanted again, yet sadly, the remaining Vagus Nerve Stimulator probe in my neck then also became infected (for the first time) during December 2007 ...

Dr. Albert Viljoen (a Neurosurgeon practising at the Little Co of Mary Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa) was hesitant to immediately remove the probe surgically, as it had already been firmly rooted into my Vagus Nerve, and the main concern was potential damage to the very important Vagus Nerve, controlling most of my bodily functions ... I then were prescribed heavy antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication.

After repeated infections, however, Dr Albert Viljoen was willing to be used as instrument in God's hand, and uplifted by a cloud of prayers, Dr Albert Viljoen successfully removed the probe from my Vagus Nerve on the 9th of May 2008. This had been exactly the 48thoperation since my accident ... and this time I REALLY hope the last ...

I was booked off for a total of 6 weeks ... forced on my back only to face upwards to God ... where God then reavealed the most AMAZING things to me ... resulting in my latest testimony at http://www.miaauw.co.za/LookingBack12YearsLaterUnF.html... All the Glory goes to God for this!