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ESOC 2021 | VNS-REHAB: vagus nerve stimulation for upper limb motor recovery after ischemic stroke

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) results in the activation of specific neural networks that promote neuroplasticity. Jesse Dawson, MD, Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Science, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK, details the randomized, triple-blind, VNS-REHAB study (NCT03131960), where the brief administration of VNS during a training task was hypothesized to make the brain more receptive to that training stimulus. A total of 108 participants were split into two groups—rehabilitation paired with active VNS or rehabilitation paired with sham stimulation. All patients received six weeks of intensive in-clinic rehabilitation, followed by a 90-day exercise program. A clinically relevant improvement in impairment, measured by the Fugl-Meyer Assessment-Upper Extremity (FMA-UE) score, was seen in approximately half of the patients in the VNS group, compared to only 24% of patients in the control group. However, Prof. Dawson argues that it is important to effectively identify patients who are more likely to benefit from VNS therapy, since the trial revealed 50% of patients in the VNS group did not respond to the treatment and 25% of patients in the control group did respond with rehabilitation alone. This interview took place at the European Stroke Organisation Conference (ESOC), 2021.


Prof. Dawson reports the following disclosures:
My institution received reimbursement for participant enrolment into trials of VNS and I received reimbursement for travel costs and conference registration to present study data.