(Philadelphia, PA) - Today, Kim Gillies received
the first VNS (vagus nerve stimulation) Therapy implant to be offered
at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
At age 40, Gillies has suffered from severe depression that she
says has caused her a “profound sense of exhaustion”
for 27 years. She has tried numerous treatment options including
psychotherapy, antidepressants and even electroconvulsive therapy
with little success and says, “I hope that this therapy will
help me get on with my life.”
neurosurgeon Gordon Baltuch, MD, performed Gillies’
procedure, which involves implanting a small pacemaker-like device
under the skin in the chest area that sends mild pulses to the brain
via the vagus nerve in the neck. A thin, thread-like wire, attached
to the generator, runs under the skin to the left vagus nerve. The
vagus nerve, one of the 12 cranial nerves, serves as the body’s
“information highway” connecting the brain to many major
organs. Several studies have shown that VNS Therapy may modulate
neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine thought to
be involved in mood regulation.
Within the next two weeks, Gillies’ psychiatrist, John
P. O’Reardon, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
and Director of Penn’s Treatment Resistant Depression Clinic,
will adjust the device so it delivers the right amount of stimulation
to treat Gillies’ symptoms.
“Patients with TRD clearly need additional treatment options.
The availability of VNS Therapy is an important new option for people
who, until now, have not had access to a long-term treatment for
controlling depressive symptoms,” says O’Reardon. “It
is especially important to know that clinical study results indicate
that patients achieve increasing benefits from VNS Therapy over
time and that the improvement appears to sustain well. Additionally,
VNS Therapy is quite tolerable, and side effects typically diminish
over time,” says O’Reardon, who expects to recommend
at least 20 more patients for the therapy this year at Penn.
The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania is the first in
the area to offer VNS Therapy as a long-term medical device treatment
specifically for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). VNS Therapy
was approved in July 2005 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) as a long-term adjunctive (add-on) treatment for patients
18 years of age and older who are experiencing a major depressive
episode and have not had an adequate response to four or more adequate
antidepressant treatments. VNS Therapy was approved for the treatment
of pharmacoresistant epilepsy in 1997, and is now the first treatment
specifically studied and approved for TRD.
In clinical studies of VNS Therapy, more than half of the patients
who had experienced an average of 25 years of major depressive disorder
and multiple treatment trials realized some clinical benefit, about
40% of the patients had at least a 50 percent improvement in their
depression, and one out of six was depression-free after one year
and two years of treatment with VNS Therapy. Patients also reported
significant improvements in quality-of-life areas, such as vitality,
mental health, emotional well-being, and social functioning.
Major depressive disorder is one of the most prevalent and serious
illnesses in the U.S., affecting nearly 19 million Americans every
year. Of those, 20 percent, or approximately 4 million people, experience
depression that does not respond to multiple antidepressant treatments.
For these people, treatments including psychotherapy, antidepressant
medications and even sometimes electroconvulsive therapy do not
work, or they work for a short while and stop working over time.
VNS Therapy is an important new treatment option for these people.
For more information on VNS Therapy at Penn, call 1-866-301-4724.
For general information on VNS Therapy, visit www.vnstherapy.com
or call 1-877-NOW-4-VNS.
PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise
dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical
research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists
of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in
1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of
Pennsylvania Health System.
Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation
for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in
U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of top
research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty
and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide
for its superior education and training of the next generation of
physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System comprises: its
flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania,
consistently rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll”
hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital,
the nation's first hospital; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; a
faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty
satellite facilities; and home health care and hospice.