OBJECT - In the US, approximately 500,000 individuals are hospitalized yearly for traumatic brain injury (TBI), and posttraumatic epilepsy (PTE) is a common sequela of TBI. Improved treatment strategies for PTE are critically needed, as patients with the disorder are often resistant to antiepileptic medications and are poor candidates for definitive resection. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is an adjunctive treatment for medically refractory epilepsy that results in a ≥ 50% reduction in seizure frequency in approximately 50% of patients after 1 year of therapy. The role of VNS in PTE has been poorly studied. The aim of this study was to determine whether patients with PTE attain more favorable seizure outcomes than individuals with nontraumatic epilepsy etiologies.
METHODS - Using a case-control study design, the authors retrospectively compared seizure outcomes after VNS therapy in patients with PTE versus those with nontraumatic epilepsy (non-PTE) who were part of a large prospectively collected patient registry.
RESULTS - After VNS therapy, patients with PTE demonstrated a greater reduction in seizure frequency (50% fewer seizures at the 3-month follow-up; 73% fewer seizures at 24 months) than patients with non-PTE (46% fewer seizures at 3 months; 57% fewer seizures at 24 months). Overall, patients with PTE had a 78% rate of clinical response to VNS therapy at 24 months (that is, ≥ 50% reduction in seizure frequency) as compared with a 61% response rate among patients with non-PTE (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.07-1.61), leading to improved outcomes according to the Engel classification (p < 0.0001, Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel statistic).
CONCLUSIONS - Vagus nerve stimulation should be considered in patients with medically refractory PTE who are not good candidates for resection. A controlled prospective trial is necessary to further examine seizure outcomes as well as neuropsychological outcomes after VNS therapy in patients with intractable PTE.