After surgery, and after the VNS device has been programmed, the doctor schedules a series of follow-up visits. At first, a person with a new VNS implant may see the doctor as often as every two weeks. Later, if everything is going well, his or her visits may be scheduled every two to six months, or as needed.
The manufacturer of the device recommends that people being treated with VNS visit their doctors at least every six months throughout the life of the device.
During office visits, the doctor checks the VNS system to make sure it is working properly and that the treatment is not uncomfortable. Most common side effects are hoarseness, cough, tickling in the throat, and changes in voice tone during actual stimulation.
VNS Stimulation is Adjustable
People who’ve had the VNS implant should let their doctors know if at any time the device becomes uncomfortable, if the stimulation seems to be coming on too often, or if it seems to have stopped altogether, or if they have any concerns about its operation or effects.
If necessary, the doctor will adjust how much stimulation is being delivered, and how often.
The doctor makes these adjustments with a computer, special software and a programming wand. Re-programming the VNS system is a painless procedure that takes only a few minutes in the doctor’s office.
Sometimes people worry that the device may be rejected by the body. Fortunately, rejection is not a problem because the VNS device is made of titanium, a material that is widely used for pacemakers and does not trigger an immune response.
If the device has to be removed, it is usually because it is not effective or, in about one percent of cases, because of malfunction or infection.