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There are very few effective treatment options for children with functional abdominal pain disorders. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin has established an auricular neurostimulation program dedicated to helping patients with functional pain disorders. Auricular neurostimulation is an innovative, non-pharmacological alternative to the many medications that are currently used to treat functional GI disorders in children. Children's is currently one of few centers in the country offering this therapy.
What is auricular neurostimulation?
Auricular neurostimulation is an innovative technology that delivers non-invasive stimulation to the outer ear. A typical treatment course consists of four weeks of therapy but can be shorter or longer based on an individual child’s needs.
How does it work?
Data suggests that auricular neurostimulation works by stimulation of branches of several cranial nerves, possibly including the vagus nerve, in the ear.
The device itself is composed of a small battery unit and 4 electrodes attached to the ear with adhesives. The electrodes pierce the skin but generally cause no discomfort. The device settings deliver 3.2 volts with alternating frequencies, and most patients do not even feel the stimulation. The device is worn continuously for five consecutive days each week followed by removal in the home setting.
No serious side effects have been reported with auricular neurostimulation and our studies show a 90 percent patient satisfaction rate with the therapy.
Our clinical trials
- Children's Hospital of Wisconsin was the first hospital to offer this therapy after our team completed a large randomized, double blind placebo-controlled trial led by Dr. Katja Kovacic. This study demonstrated safety of efficacy of three consecutive weeks of auricular neurostimulation for adolescents suffering from drug-refractory functional abdominal pain disorders. Abdominal pain, global well-being and functional disability all improved in the 104 patients studied. The results of this study was published in The Lancet, one of the world’s largest scientific journals, in 2017.
- Auricular neurostimulation was recently FDA-approved for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome based on data from the above study performed at Children's.
- Our team continues to investigate the effects and mechanisms of auricular neurostimulation via research studies at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. An ongoing clinical trial is currently studying it’s efficacy for chronic, functional nausea which is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Health.
- We are also studying the efficacy and mechanisms of auricular neurostimulation for children and adults with cyclic vomiting syndrome, supported by a grant from the Medical College of Wisconsin's Digestive Disease Center.
To learn more about auricular neurostimulation treatment, please call:
For more than two years, Dylan could barely get out of bed due to cyclic vomiting syndrome. Learn how our doctors used auricular neurostimulation to improve his symptoms and quality of life. Read his story.
Among the nation's best
U.S. News & World Report has once again ranked the Gastroenterology Liver and Nutrition Program at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin among the top programs in the nation for pediatric Gastroenterology and GI surgery.