HOUSTON—Compared with intensive physical therapy alone, vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)
plus intensive physical therapy may improve upper-limb motor function in the long term among people
with ischemic stroke, according to data described at
the International Stroke Conference 2017. The current
results are consistent with those of a previous study,
and a larger pivotal study of the treatment is scheduled
to begin this summer.
Approximately three-quarters of patients with acute
stroke have arm weakness, and the problem persists in
about half of these patients, said Jesse Dawson, MD,
Clinical Reader specializing in clinical stroke research
at the University of Glasgow. Long-term arm weakness
predicts poor quality of life, and current treatments to
improve arm function provide limited benefit in patients
with chronic stroke.
Research in animal models of stroke indicates that
VNS in addition to physical therapy promotes task-specific neuroplasticity and increases recovery. In a
study of 20 patients, Dr. Dawson and colleagues found
that the combination of neurostimulation and physical therapy was safe and feasible. They also observed
functional improvement in patients who received VNS
plus physical therapy, compared with controls.
A Blinded Trial of VNS
To further assess the combination of VNS and physical therapy, Dr. Dawson and colleagues performed
Volume 25, Number 4
Can VNS Improve Arm
Function After Stroke?
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