SUMMIT, NJ (Union County) – Atlantic Health System recently became the first in New Jersey to use MicroTransponder®, Inc.’s Vivistim® Paired VNS™ System, an FDA-approved, breakthrough technology for stroke survivors experiencing ongoing hand and arm impairment.
Vivistim, a small device implanted in a patient’s upper chest area in an outpatient procedure, employs vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) during rehabilitation therapy. New Jersey’s first Vivistim implantation took place at Overlook Medical Center and was performed by neurosurgeon Ronald Benitez, MD.
“We are dedicated to bringing leading-edge, potentially life-changing treatment approaches to stroke survivors throughout New Jersey,” said Dr. Benitez, chair of endovascular neurosurgery at Overlook Medical Center. “Our passion for ensuring our patients have access to the most innovative therapeutic options was a key driver behind our comprehensive stroke center being able to give these patients a renewed sense of hope with the Vivistim System.”
Atlantic Health System has a long-standing history of being a leader in stroke care in New Jersey. The Atlantic Neuroscience Institute, based at Overlook, includes the first state-designated Comprehensive Stroke Center. Rehabilitation therapists at Atlantic Health System’s Newton Medical Center and Atlantic Rehabilitation in New Providence have been specially trained to use Vivistim in therapy.
Vivistim Paired VNS Therapy helps generate 2-3 times more hand and arm function for ischemic stroke survivors than traditional rehabilitation therapy alone. Since many stroke patients stop seeing the return of function after the first year or so of recovery after their stroke, the Vivistim device offers a potential alternative to recover additional function.
“Stimulating the vagus nerve directly in conjunction with traditional rehabilitation can open doorways to regain function that many patients had thought closed,” said vascular neurologist John Hanna, MD, medical director of Atlantic Health System’s Comprehensive Stroke Center at Overlook Medical Center. “It’s an incredible approach which we believe can drastically improve the quality of stroke patients’ lives.”
The first patient to be treated with the device at Atlantic Health System, a Succasunna, NJ woman in her 60s who experienced a stroke in 2020, had the device implanted in February and began her rehabilitation using the device in March at Newton Medical Center. She began seeing hand function start to return within two therapy sessions and even more function in successive weeks by using the Vivistim device in sessions and at home.
“The idea behind Paired VNS therapy with Vivistim is akin to giving our traditional rehabilitation techniques a boost from within, by strengthening the patient’s abilities through nerve stimulation,” said David Scott, David Scott manager, Atlantic Rehabilitation Outpatient Services. “This approach can exponentially enhance a patient’s chances of recovering function during therapy.”
During rehabilitation therapy, a therapist uses a wireless transmitter that communicates with proprietary software 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.
The simultaneous pairing of the rehabilitation exercise with vagus nerve stimulation releases neuromodulators that help create or strengthen neural connections to improve upper limb function and increase the relevance of physical or occupational therapy.
“This collaboration with Atlantic Health System 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 so that they can get back to doing the things they enjoy,” said Richard Foust, MicroTransponder’s CEO.
With FDA-approved Vivistim now offered at leading comprehensive stroke centers and rehabilitation centers, stroke survivors can ask their rehabilitation specialist or physician for a referral if they are candidates for Paired VNS Therapy.
For more information about Vivistim at Atlantic Health System, email VNSforStroke@atlantichealth.org.