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Complications of Implanted Vagus Nerve Stimulation: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

INTRODUCTION: Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) has emerged as a promising tool in ischemic stroke rehabilitation. However, there has been no systematic review summarizing its adverse effects, critical information for patients and providers when obtaining informed consent for this novel treatment. This systematic review and meta-analysis reports the adverse effects of VNS.

METHODS: A systematic review was performed in accordance with PRISMA guidelines to identify common complications after VNS therapy. The search was executed in: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Embase, and Ovid MEDLINE. All prospective, randomized controlled trials using implanted VNS therapy in adult patients were eligible for inclusion. Case studies and studies lacking complete complication reports were excluded. Extracted data included technology name, location of implantation, follow-up duration, purpose of VNS, and adverse event rates.

RESULTS: After title-and-abstract screening of 4933 studies, 21 were selected for final inclusion. Across these studies, 1474 patients received VNS implantation. VNS was used as a potential therapy for epilepsy (9), depression (8), anxiety (1), ischemic stroke (1), chronic heart failure (1), and fibromyalgia (1). The 5 most common post-implant adverse events were voice alteration/hoarseness (n=671, 45.5%), paresthesia (n = 233, 15.8%), cough (n = 221, 15.0%), dyspnea (n = 211, 14.3%), and pain (n = 170, 11.5%).

CONCLUSIONS: Complications from VNS are mild and transient, with reduction in severity and number of adverse events with increasing follow-up time. In prior studies, VNS has served as treatment option in several instances of treatment-resistant conditions, such as epilepsy and psychiatric conditions, and its use in stroke recovery and rehabilitation should continue to be explored.

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