Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute at Jersey Shore University Medical Center completed its first Paired VNS™ Therapy case with a stroke survivor who has yet to regain her desired hand and arm function after five years of traditional physical and occupational therapy.
Hackensack Meridian’s experts believe it is possible that 67-year-old Donna Bilella of Ocean, NJ, will achieve life-changing recovery with MicroTransponder®, Inc.’s Vivistim® Paired VNS™ System, an FDA-approved, breakthrough technology that employs vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) during rehabilitation therapy to help generate two to three times more hand and arm function for ischemic stroke survivors than rehabilitation therapy alone.
“Just an improvement in being able to perform day-to-day activities would be great,” said Donna. “But, as a longtime piano player and music teacher, I would love to be able to simply play the piano again.”
To initiate Paired VNS Therapy, the small Vivistim device was placed in Donna’s upper left chest area November 27, during an outpatient procedure performed by Shabbar F. Danish, M.D., FAANS, chair of Neurosurgery, Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute at Jersey Shore University Medical Center (JSUMC) and Dr. Neil Majmundar, Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery, Department of Neurosurgery, JSUMC.
During rehabilitation therapy, a therapist uses a wireless transmitter to signal the Vivistim device to deliver a gentle pulse to the vagus nerve while the stroke survivor performs a specific task, such as putting on a hat, brushing hair or cutting food, etc… Vagus nerve stimulation releases neuromodulators that when paired with rehabilitation exercise help create or strengthen neural connections to improve upper limb function and increase the relevance of physical therapy.
Donna began her six weeks of Vivistim TherapyTM, at Hackensack Meridian Rehabilitation at Neptune, with fine motor skill sessions. “We’re proud to be among the first in New Jersey and one of less than 30 locations throughout the nation to offer stroke survivors this groundbreaking technology to enhance their quality of life,” said Dr. Danish. “The science behind Paired VNS Therapy is impressive because it can help increase neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, to help the brain relearn movements.”
Donna is among the 60 percent of stroke survivors who experience upper limb issues for six months or longer, after their stroke. Paired VNS Therapy, the first new treatment option for stroke survivors in 20 years, has been clinically proven to help progress upper limb rehabilitation during the chronic phase. While VNS has been an extensively researched treatment option for epilepsy and depression for more than 25 years, the Vivistim System is the first application of it in rehabilitation therapy and to help neuroplasticity.
“The medical expertise of our physicians and the leading-edge technologies they use continually amaze me. I’m proud they are able to provide these advancements to the community we serve,” said Vito Buccellato, MPA, LNHA, president and chief hospital executive, JSUMC.
Jersey Shore University Medical Center is a Joint Commission-designated Comprehensive Stroke Center, has been named one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Stroke Care the past four years by Healthgrades and recipient of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Gold Plus with Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Plus with Advanced Therapy with Target: Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll. “Thanks to the speed in which we are able to receive people experiencing a stroke, our expert stroke specialists and advanced treatments, people increasingly survive a stroke,” said Sanskriti Mishra, M.D., director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center, Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute at JSUMC. “New rehabilitation techniques and technologies like Paired VNS Therapy are important as we help survivors regain their function.”
“We are now part of the team of 30 institutions throughout the country collaborating on studies to assess and improve outcomes of stroke survivors in the chronic phase,” added Ghasan Ahmad, M.D., interventional neuroradiologist for the Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
“It’s an exciting time for Jersey Shore’s Neuroscience Institute as we continue to expand our world-class patient services and add highly specialized clinicians and advanced medical technologies,” said Kenneth N. Sable, M.D., MBA, FACEP, regional president, Southern Market, Hackensack Meridian Health.
Individuals who believe they may be a candidate for VNS Therapy can call Dr. Danish’s office, at 732-974-0003 to make an appointment. For more information about Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute, visit www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/en/services/neurosciences.
“We’re thrilled Donna chose Vivistim for this next phase of her rehabilitation journey so that she can get back to doing the day-to-day activities and hobbies that are important to her,” said Richard Foust, MicroTransponder’s CEO. “This collaboration among Hackensack Meridian Health’s experts to incorporate Vivistim Therapy into their clinical care is remarkable and revives hope for stroke survivors who want more significant improvement of their hand and arm function. This is just the beginning of giving more stroke survivors in New Jersey access to this innovative therapy.”