A vagal-nerve pacemaker implanted for first time into ten-month old baby

Science and Health

A 10-month-old baby boy weighing only 5.5 kilos who suffers from epilepsy has undergone the implantation of a vagal-nerve stimulator (VNS) at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya. The vagus nerve is one of the 12 cranial nerves that travel from the brain to rest of the body.

The operation is a significant achievement in pediatric neurosurgery because it is usually performed only on patients over 20 kilos or more. The device is designed to help those with drug-resistant epilepsy, where traditional treatments fail to control seizures. 

Pediatric neurosurgery department head Dr. Sergey Abeshaus said that the best solution was the implantation of an advanced vagal pacemaker of the Sentiva model. He stressed the life-changing benefits of this treatment, which involves electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve to help reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of seizures by suppressing abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

New lease of life for 10-month old

The pacemaker consists of a battery that is implanted under the left clavicle (collarbone) or in the armpit, as well as an electrode that is implanted on the left vagus nerve. The device sends a nerve impulse, stimulating the nerve and helping to suppress the abnormal electrical activity, thus reducing the frequency of seizures, as well as their length and intensity.

The infant, a resident of a village in the Galilee, suffered brain damage at the time of his birth due to an oxygenation problem and has since suffered from repeated convulsions. His weight remains low due to various comorbidities. In the coming days, the pacemaker will be activated at the Emek Medical Center in Afula to where the infant was referred by the Nahariya hospital.

A medical clown at Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya. (credit: REUTERS)

“Treatment with the pacemaker leads to an improvement in the quality of life, a significant reduction of the seizures or even their cessation, and in some cases also prevents life-threatening situations that could be caused if this were not implemented,” Abeshaus explained. 

Abeshaus has implanted hundreds of pacemakers in the bodies of adults and children from across the north of Israel, but this was the first time he has performed the procedure on a baby so young and with such a low weight.