Kansas Patent of the Month – July 2022

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a fairly common treatment option for epileptic seizures characterized by cardiac changes. Seizures are certainly the most common and most studied manifestation of epilepsy but cardiac alterations are not fair behind. In fact, these alterations might account for the high rate of sudden unexpected death in epileptic patients. 

VNS therapy uses a train of electrical pulses applied to the nerve. If the left side of the vagus nerve is stimulated, it can have complex effects on heart rate including the slowing of the heart rate. Stimulation of the right vagus nerve has a more prominent bradycardic effect. There is some concern that VNS may have a risk of excessively slowing the heart during stimulation.

Flint Hills Scientific, LLC has developed a method for contingent cardio-protection for epilepsy patients during VNS. The method allows for the treatment of an epileptic patient using a cardiac and kinetic sensing signal. Each signal is monitored to determine if the patient has an epileptic seizure and if it is the result of a decreased heart rate. If no seizure is detected, or if the seizure is not caused by cardiac changes, the VNS directs stimulation to the cardiac branch of the vagus nerve – the left branch. If a seizure is detected and caused by cardiac changes, a second stimulation is directed towards the right vagus nerve. This additional checkpoint and adjustment to VNS protects the patient during treatment, reducing the risk of lowered heartbeat.

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