One of the most unusual aspects of VNS is the part that a special magnet plays in the treatment. It gives people with VNS implants some control over the device and how it works.
The special, thin block magnet is attached to a strap. It can be worn on the wrist like a watch, or clipped to a belt like a pager.
Although the VNS system delivers stimulation automatically in regular pulses all the time, the magnet can be used to deliver extra electronic stimulation in between cycles. The patient does this by passing the magnet over the area of the chest where the VNS device is implanted.
Magnets Can Help with Seizures
People use the magnet in this way when they sense a seizure is about to happen. For some, the extra stimulation stops the seizure, shortens it, makes it less severe, or reduces the time it takes to recover afterwards. Other people say using the magnet has little or no effect on their seizures.
Tips on Handling Magnets
Not everyone with a VNS implant has a warning before a seizure begins. However, family members and caregivers can also be shown how to pass the magnet over the implant when that person has a seizure.
Magnets can also be used to give people a short break from the programmed stimulation.
Magnets Can Stop Stimulation
By holding a magnet in place over the device, someone with a VNS implant can stop stimulation or turn off the pulse generator for a short time.
Reasons for wanting to stop the stimulation may include:
In addition, a VNS patient can use the magnet daily to check whether the pulse generator battery is working properly.