Transcutaneous auricular vagal nerve stimulation for consciousness recovery in patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness (TAVREC): study protocol for a multicenter, triple-blind, randomized controlled trial in China

BMJ Open. 2024 May 31;14(5):e083888. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2024-083888.


INTRODUCTION: Prolonged disorders of consciousness (pDoC) are a catastrophic condition following brain injury with few therapeutic options. Transcutaneous auricular vagal nerve stimulation (taVNS), a safe, non-invasive intervention modulating thalamo-cortical connectivity and brain function, is a possible treatment option of pDoC. We developed a protocol for a randomised controlled study to evaluate the effectiveness of taVNS on consciousness recovery in patients with pDoC (TAVREC).

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: The TAVREC programme is a multicentre, triple-blind, randomised controlled trial with 4 weeks intervention followed by 4 weeks follow-up period. A minimum number of 116 eligible pDoC patients will be recruited and randomly receive either: (1) conventional therapy plus taVNS (30 s monophasic square current of pulse width 300 μs, frequency of 25 Hz and intensity of 1 mA followed by 30 s rest, 60 min, two times per day, for 4 weeks); or (2) conventional therapy plus taVNS placebo. Primary outcome of TAVREC is the rate of improved consciousness level based on the Coma Recovery Scale-Revised (CRS-R) at week 4. Secondary outcomes are CRS-R total and subscale scores, Glasgow Coma Scale score, Full Outline of UnResponsiveness score, ECG parameters, brainstem auditory evoked potential, upper somatosensory evoked potential, neuroimaging parameters from positron emission tomography/functional MRI, serum biomarkers associated with consciousness level and adverse events.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: This study was reviewed and approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University (Reference number: 2023-SR-392). Findings will be disseminated in a peer-reviewed journal and presented at relevant conferences.


PMID:38821572 | DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2024-083888