Vol. 2 No. 9 (2022)
Horizon Scans

Vagus Nerve Stimulation for the Treatment of Post–COVID-19 Condition

Published September 20, 2022

Key Messages

  • Horizon Scan reports provide brief summaries of information regarding new and emerging health technologies; Health Technology Update articles typically focus on a single device or intervention. These technologies are identified through the CADTH Horizon Scanning Service as topics of potential interest to health care decision-makers in Canada.
  • This Horizon Scan summarizes the available information regarding vagus nerve stimulation for the treatment of post–COVID-19 condition, also known as long COVID. In particular, the Horizon Scan discusses the Dolphin Neurostim, the first medical device to receive a Health Canada emergency authorization for expanded use in post–COVID-19 conditions.
  • The emerging evidence from early findings of small pilot studies suggests that vagus nerve dysfunction may be implicated in some post–COVID-19 conditions and neurostimulation of the vagus nerve could help improve some symptoms. However, the evidence is limited because the studies were not powered to detect statistically significant differences in outcomes, and it is unclear if the reported findings were clinically meaningful.
  • Due to the heterogeneity of post–COVID-19 condition and limited understanding of its pathophysiology, the extent of vagus nerve dysfunction’s involvement in the condition is unclear. Where that dysfunction is implicated, electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve may be a potentially useful therapeutic option, likely complementary to other treatment options. Emerging evidence from ongoing and future research could help define the clinical effectiveness of the technology and guide its appropriate use.