Setting Up a Successful Vagus Nerve Stimulation Service for Patients With Difficult-to-Treat Depression

Christoph Kraus, Darin Quach, David M. Sholtes, Erhan Kavakbasi, Renske De Zwaef, Maxine Dibué, John Zajecka, Bernhard T. Baune

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: A substantial number of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) do not sufficiently remit after the first lines of antidepressant treatments, making them vulnerable to poor clinical outcomes. Patients who have not had adequate resolution of their depressive symptoms after four antidepressant treatments and/or have been experiencing their current episode of MDD for two years or more (with insufficient responses to adequate antidepressant treatments) should be evaluated for antidepressant vagus nerve stimulation (VNS Therapy). Adjunctive VNS Therapy is a promising long-term treatment option for patients with difficult-to-treat depression (DTD), offering significantly improved remission rates in comparison with usual treatments. However, VNS Therapy requires specialized treatment centers to support patients. Materials and Methods: In this narrative review, we aim to outline the necessary steps for setting up an antidepressant VNS Therapy service in an efficient manner. Results: Establishing a VNS Therapy service requires several high-level considerations: initiation of a collaborative multidisciplinary team of health care professionals; developing a surgical pathway for implantation; consideration of reimbursement and health care coverage; setting up a specialist clinic to identify optimal candidates for VNS Therapy; educating patients and their families about VNS Therapy; and training health care providers on patient-specific VNS Therapy treatment and long-term treatment management. Conclusions: Antidepressant VNS Therapy is a promising treatment option for the long-term treatment of patients with DTD. We have successfully initiated four VNS Therapy service centers for DTD in the United States, Austria, and Germany. Based on our experiences and lessons learned, herein, we have provided advice to psychiatric centers planning to set up a VNS Therapy service for their patients with DTD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-326
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Depression
  • VNS
  • difficult-to-treat depression
  • treatment-resistant depression
  • vagus nerve stimulation


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