Home Carilion Clinic is first in Virginia to restore upper limb function for post-stroke patients

Carilion Clinic is first in Virginia to restore upper limb function for post-stroke patients

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Carilion Clinic reached a milestone in May as the first health system in Virginia to implant Vivistim® for improved arm and hand function post stroke.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2021, Vivistim® treats moderate to severe upper extremity motor deficits associated with stroke using vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) paired with occupational therapy. When paired with occupational therapy, vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) can improve a patient’s arm and hand function, even years after a stroke.

“We are proud to be the first treatment center in the state to offer this groundbreaking solution for stroke survivors with impaired hand and arm function,” neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Witcher said. “Paired VNS Therapy can revive hope for stroke survivors even years after their initial recovery efforts plateau.”

According to Vivistim® research studies, when used in conjunction with occupational therapy, the implant employs vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) to generate two to three times more hand and arm function improvement for stroke survivors than therapy alone.

During occupational therapy, a therapist will signal the device to deliver a gentle pulse to the vagus nerve while the patient performs a functional task, such as cutting food, buttoning a shirt or brushing hair. The pairing of the rehabilitation exercise with VNS releases neuromodulators that create or strengthen neural connections in areas of the brain outside the damaged region, improving upper limb function and increasing the effectiveness of the therapy.

“Collaboration among Carilion neurosurgeons, physiatrists and occupational therapists for enhanced stroke therapy provides an incredible approach, which we believe can drastically improve the quality of stroke patients’ lives,” said Justin Weppner, section chief, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.


Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.