19 million Americans suffer from depression every year. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States.
Something new in the treatment of depression is a device called the Vagus Nerve Stimulator, or VNS. Actually, the device has already been used to treat epilepsy, but the FDA has recently given it approval in the treatment of depression since it is showing relief with fewer side effects that medication. The VNS is about the size and shape of a small stopwatch,which is implanted in the chest just under the skin where it sends signals to the brain.
"We tell it how strong we want that impulse to be and how frequent and by stimulating this nerve it sends these impulses to certain areas of the brain which alters the chemicals that are involved in both depression and epilepsy," says Walter Lajara M.D. at TTHSC.
Dr. Walter Lajara, assistant professor of the department of neuro-psychiatry at Texas Tech showed us the device Monday on HealthWise at 5. He says he already has patients scheduled to receive the implant, and he believes that this VNS therapy will eventually help untold numbers in this area who suffer from depression.