Transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation effects on inflammatory markers and clinical evolution of patients with COVID-19: a pilot randomized clinical trial

Laura Uehara, João Carlos Ferrari Corrêa, Raphael Ritti, Paulo Leite, Deivide Rafael Gomes de Faria, Kevin Pacheco-Barrios, Luis Castelo-Branco, Felipe Fregni, Fernanda Ishida Corrêa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: To evaluate the effects of transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS) on inflammatory markers and clinical outcomes in patients with COVID-19. Methods: A randomized blinded pilot study was carried out with 21 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 who received 14 sessions of active (a-taVNS) or sham taVNS (s-taVNS). The level of interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-10 (IL-10), cortisol, and C-reactive protein (CRP) in plasma and clinical evolution pre- and post-intervention were evaluated. The memory and attention levels were evaluated 14 days after the end of the treatment. Results: After treatment, significant intragroup differences were found in the CRP (p = 0.01), IL-6 (p = 0.01), and cortisol (p = 0.01) levels; however, in the comparison between the groups, only the CRP level was statistically lower for the a-taVNS (p = 0.04). The impression of improvement in memory and attention was greater in the a-taVNS than in the s-taVNS (p = 0.01, p = 0.04, respectively). There was no difference between the other clinical outcomes. Conclusions: taVNS is a viable and safe intervention in the acute care of patients with COVID-19, which can modulate their inflammatory profile and improve cognitive symptoms. However, improvements in overall clinical outcomes were not detected. Larger sample sizes and longer follow-ups are needed to confirm the anti-inflammatory and clinical effects of taVNS in patients with COVID-19. Trials Registry: The Brazilian Registry of Clinical Trials (RBR–399t4g5).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)915-920
Number of pages6
JournalExpert Review of Medical Devices
Volume19
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • inflammation
  • neuromodulation
  • noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation
  • vagus nerve

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