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Pediatric Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

How vagal nerve stimulation helps patients

Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is an alternative for children whose seizures are not well-controlled with medications and who are not candidates for a brain operation to eliminate seizures.

VNS attempts to control seizures by sending small pulses of current to the brain from the vagus nerve, which is a large nerve that runs from the brain, through the neck and chest to the abdomen. This is done by surgically placing a small battery under the chest muscles and above the chest wall. Small wires are then attached to the battery and placed under the skin and around the left vagus nerve. The battery is then programmed to send current every few minutes to the brain.

In addition, when the child feels a seizure coming on, he or she may activate the impulses by holding a small magnet over the battery. For some patients, this may help stop the seizure or make it less severe.

Children's National Hospital's program

The Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Program at Children's National monitors patients receiving VNS therapy for epilepsy, and collects data on VNS efficacy and tolerability. The VNS Program follows more than 80 patients.

Children's National offers the VNS program at three sites — at the Neurology Clinic at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., Children's National Northern Virginia, and Children's National Rockville.

Your child can see our specialists for a pre-operative visit in either location to learn about the VNS, as well as regular follow-up visits after surgery for VNS programming and monitoring. The actual VNS surgery is performed at the main hospital by Children's National's epilepsy neurosurgeon.

Children's Team

Children's Team


William Gaillard

William D. Gaillard

Division Chief, Epilepsy and Neurophysiology
Division Chief, Neurology
Director, Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Program
Associate Director, Center for Neuroscience Research



Our pediatric neuroscience team is the largest in the country, allowing us to offer our vast experience to patients and families.

Epilepsy Program

To treat your child’s epilepsy, our program offers a complete range of individualized care plans – from minimally invasive surgery to dietary therapies. Learn more about our treatment options and how to schedule an appointment.  

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