The Impact of COVID-19 Lockdown on People With Epilepsy and Vagal Nerve Stimulation

Eleonora Grande, Tommaso Tufo, Marco Ciavarro, Ines Di Muccio, Filomena Fuggetta, Martina Silvestri, Giuseppina Bevacqua, Jacopo Lanzone, Giovanni Assenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Restrictive measures adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to limit contagion, have had a severe impact on mental health. The burden of lockdown has been particularly heavy on patients with chronic neurologic diseases such as People with Epilepsy (PwE). Our survey aims to describe the struggles and needs of Drug-Resistant (DR) PwE with implanted Vagal Nerve Stimulator (VNS) during the first wave of the COVID-19 lockdown in order to find strategies that help patients cope with present or future periods of restriction. Methods: We collected answers from 30 respondents who underwent an online survey including socio-demographic and clinical information and COVID-19-related information. Depression, anxiety symptoms, and sleep quality were investigated in patients through BDI II, GAD-7, and the PSQI scale. Results: In all, 46% of our sample reported an increase in the number of seizures; the entire sample complained of epilepsy-related issues (medication availability, VSN adjustments, anxiety, sleep disturbance); one out of three participants reported major epilepsy issues felt urgent; 30% had to postpone scheduled examination. Significantly higher scores for depression and anxiety scales were found in patients who perceived seizure frequency worsening and reported major epilepsy-related issues. Conclusion: Preliminary findings showed that the first lockdown influenced the clinical and psychological status of PwE and was related to seizures worsening. The lack of medical assistance and control on VNS therapy left patients to cope with the situation without a chance to contact a specialist. We discuss how a wider implementation of telemedicine programs could facilitate remote assistance of PwE with a VNS implant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640581
JournalFront. Neurol.
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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