Left cervical vagal nerve stimulation reduces skin sympathetic nerve activity in patients with drug resistant epilepsy

Yuan Yuan, Jonathan L. Hassel, Anisiia Doytchinova, David Adams, Keith C. Wright, Chad Meshberger, Lan S. Chen, Maria P. Guerra, Changyu Shen, Shien-Fong Lin, Thomas H. Everett, Vicenta Salanova, Peng Sheng Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background We recently reported that skin sympathetic nerve activity (SKNA) can be used to estimate sympathetic tone in humans. In animal models, vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) can damage the stellate ganglion, reduce stellate ganglion nerve activity, and suppress cardiac arrhythmia. Whether VNS can suppress sympathetic tone in humans remains unclear. Objective The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that VNS suppresses SKNA in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. Methods ECG patch electrodes were used to continuously record SKNA in 26 patients with drug-resistant epilepsy who were admitted for video electroencephalographic monitoring. Among them, 6 (2 men, age 40 ± 11 years) were previously treated with VNS and 20 (7 men, age 37 ± 8 years) were not. The signals from ECG leads I and II were filtered to detect SKNA. Results VNS had an on-time of 30 seconds and off-time of 158 ± 72 seconds, with output of 1.92 ± 0.42 mA at 24.17 ± 2.01 Hz. Average SKNA during VNS off-time was 1.06 μV (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.93–1.18) in lead I and 1.13 μV (95% CI 0.99–1.27) in lead II, which was significantly lower than 1.38 μV (95% CI 1.01–1.75; P =.036) and 1.38 μV (95% CI 0.98–1.78; P =.035) in the control group, respectively. Heart rate was 65 bpm (95% CI 59–71) in the VNS group, which was significantly lower than 77 bpm (95% CI 71–83) in the control group. Conclusion Patients with VNS had significantly lower SKNA than those without VNS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1771-1778
Number of pages8
JournalHeart Rhythm
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Neuromodulation
  • Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy

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