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Device for Epilepsy Helps Depression

Frequently in the treatment of certain medical conditions doctors and researchers stumble on something that will turn out to be equally capable of treating a condition they were not investigating. Many medical miracles have been discovered this way. An example of a depression treatment discovered this way was made several years ago. A device was being used to help those with epilepsy to try to at least reduce, or if they were successful, eliminate their seizures. The device, called a vagal nerve pacemaker, was designed to send pulses along the vagal nerve system. The vagal nerve is part of the central nervous system. Its primary job is to send messages between the brain stem and the upper body. It sends these messages through the central nervous system.


When the experiments first started they were designed to give relief to epileptics. They hoped that the electrical pulses coming from the pacemakers would affect the severity and hopefully the degree of the seizures. They did, but with one little surprise. They also seemed to improve the mood of those using them. This seemed to be an added bonus and so physicians and researchers alike began to look into using this pacemaker on people who did not do well with standard treatments. With over eighteen million Americans suffering from depression and nearly a million of those falling into the category of treatment resistant this was hoped to be a breakthrough treatment. This was despite the fact that they were unsure of why it worked. The belief is that is may affect the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin.


The device is the size of an average cookie. It is inserted under the collarbone. Then it's attached to the vargus nerve. The surgery is considered very minor but nonetheless the patient is kept in the hospital overnight to ensure that there are no complications. The patients return regularly to be monitored as the treatment continues.


A study that was done on a group of treatment resistant patients showed terrific results. The vagal nerve pacemaker was implanted and gradually set to a level of stimulation that was considered comfortable by each individual patient. Within a few weeks forty percent of the patients were feeling less depressed. Surprisingly seventeen percent went into complete remission. At the end of a years use over ninety percent of the original forty percent continued to have diminished episodes of depression. This treatment also has the benefit of having almost no side effects. Seem people will have a momentary twinge when the pulse occurs or some irritation where the device sits under the skin. While others experience some minimal affects on the voice box during the pulsation. The success of this device to treat depression has opened up a whole new area of study. Researches see the possibility of there being other treatments that help epilepsy that could also assist with depression. They are looking at medications now and believe that they may have found some that are worth using to treat depression.
 

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