Overview of VNS and Magnet Use

  • VNS Therapy™ helps control seizures by providing electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve, which then stimulates the brain.
  • If you have a VNS implanted, you will return to see the doctor or nurse to program the device during office visits. During these visits, the generator is programmed to deliver intermittent stimulation, usually every 5 minutes, but it can be more frequently.
  • The device can also be programmed to deliver stimulation when it’s activated by a magnet. This allows the user to trigger an extra burst of stimulation when a magnet is swiped over the generator.
  • The magnet settings may be set a little higher than the usual settings to provide more stimulation at the time of a seizure. The stimulation may last 30 or 60 seconds at a time, depending on how it works for you.

How does the VNS Magnet work?

Inside the VNS generator is a switch that opens and closes when the magnet is passed over it. The movement of this switch sends the burst of stimulation to the vagus nerve – when the magnet is held over the generator, the switch is closed and no stimulation is given. When the magnet is removed, the switch opens and the device is turned on. The location of the switch is key to knowing where to place the magnet on the generator. The placement of the switch varies slightly in the different models.

  • Make sure that you read the VNS Therapy Patient Manual to find the location of the switch in the model of VNS that you have and how to swipe the magnet over the generator.
  • When you see the VNS programmer (doctor or nurse), ask them to check the device history of your VNS. They can tell if the magnet mode has been activated and when. This information may help you know if you are using the magnet correctly.
  • If you are using the magnet more frequently than is being recorded by the device, you may be swiping the magnet in the wrong place.

How helpful is the magnet?

Some people find that stimulation at the time of a seizure can help stop the seizure, shorten the event, make it less intense, or help the person recover quicker than usual. Not everyone finds the magnet helpful, but when it does work, it should be used as part of seizure first aid.


Continue to Using the VNS Magnet to Stop Seizures


Authored By: 
Steven C. Schachter MD
Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Authored Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Friday, February 14, 2014