December 22, 2021

Norwegian Population-Based Study of Long-Term Effects, Safety, and Predictors of Response of Vagus Nerve Stimulation Treatment in Drug-Resistant Epilepsy: The NORPulse Study

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsia

Objective: This study was undertaken to evaluate the efficacy of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) over time, and to determine which patient groups derive the most benefit.

Methods: Long-term outcomes are reported in 436 epilepsy patients from a VNS quality registry (52.8% adults, 47.2% children), with a median follow-up of 75 months. Patients were stratified according to evolution of response into constant responders, fluctuating responders, and nonresponders. The effect was evaluated at 6, 12, 24, 36, and 60 months. Multivariate regression analysis was used to identify predictors of response.

Results: The cumulative probability of ?50% seizure reduction was 60%; however, 15% of patients showed a fluctuating course. Of those becoming responders, 89.5% (230/257) did so within 2 years. A steady increase in effect was observed among constant responders, with 48.7% (19/39) of those becoming seizure-free and 29.3% (39/133) with ?75% seizure reduction achieving these effects within 2–5 years. Some effect (25%–<50%) at 6 months was a positive predictor of becoming a responder (odds ratio [OR] = 10.18, p < .0001) and having ?75% reduction at 2 years (OR = 3.34, p = .03). Patients without intellectual disability had ORs of 3.34 and 3.11 of having ?75% reduction at 2 and 5 years, respectively, and an OR of 6.22 of being seizure-free at last observation. Patients with unchanged antiseizure medication over the observation period showed better responder rates at 2 (63.0% vs. 43.1%, p = .002) and 5 years (63.4% vs. 46.3%, p = .031) than patients whose antiseizure medication was modified. Responder rates were higher for posttraumatic (70.6%, p = .048) and poststroke epilepsies (75.0%, p = .05) than other etiologies (46.5%).

Significance: Our data indicate that the effect of vagus nerve stimulation increases over time and that there are important clinical decision points at 6 and 24 months for evaluating and adjusting the treatment. There should be better selection of candidates, as certain patient groups and epilepsy etiologies respond more favorably.

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