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DOI: 10.1002/epi4.12453; PMCID: PMC7918318


Objective: Patients with drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE) pose considerable management challenges for patients, their families, and providers. Both the vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) and the ketogenic diet (KD) have been shown to be safe and effective in treating DRE. Nevertheless, information is lacking regarding treatment with combination of both modalities. This study reports the efficacy and tolerability of combining VNS and KD in a pediatric cohort with intractable epilepsy.

Methods: This is a retrospective review of 33 patients (0-17 years) with DRE treated with VNS and KD at a single pediatric level IV epilepsy center. We compared seizure reduction rates for each patient at baseline and at every clinic visit for 24 months after adding the second nonpharmacological therapy. The frequency of adverse events on the combined therapy was collected to assess safety and tolerability.

Results: There were a total of 170 visits for all patients while on the combined therapy. At 88% (95% CI: 83%-93%) of the visits, patients reported some reduction in seizure frequency. The proportion of patients reporting a greater than 50% seizure reduction over all visits was 62% (95% CI: 55%-69%). The proportion of a patient's visits with at least a greater than 50% reduction in seizure frequency had a median of 71% (IQR 33%-100%). Continued improvement was seen over time of combined treatment; for every one-unit time unit change (one month), there was a 6% increase in the odds of having a reduction in seizure frequency of >50% (OR = 1.06, 95% CI: 1.01-1.11).

Significance: This study shows that combining the VNS and KD in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy is well tolerated and reduces seizure frequency more than either one modality used alone and that the benefits in terms of seizure reduction continue to increase with the length of treatment.

Journal Title

Epilepsia Open





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epilepsy surgery; neuromodulation; safety & efficacy; seizure control


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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