Tampa General Conducts First Procedure on the West Coast of Florida With Device Designed to Revive Arm Function After Stroke

Once implanted under the skin and paired with physical therapy, Vivistim gives patients a better chance of returning to their daily activities.

TAMPA, Fla., March 19, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Tampa General Hospital (TGH) is the first hospital on the West Coast of Florida to provide new hope to stroke patients experiencing loss of upper limb function with the help of a pacemaker-like device implanted under the skin.

“Combined with a six-week physical therapy protocol, the device significantly improves upper limb function for stroke patients,” said Dr. Oliver Flouty, assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and a neurosurgeon at Tampa General. He performed the academic health system’s first implant Nov. 7, 2023.

With the dual therapy, patients can return to the activities and tasks they used to perform, such as buttoning a shirt, preparing a meal or even playing a guitar. “This device shows great promise as a key component in helping to improve the quality of life for our patients,” Flouty said. “It’s an exciting new breakthrough.”

Called Vivistim, the device provides Paired Vagus Nerve Stimulation, or Paired VNS. It was designed to strengthen the brain connections needed to improve hand and arm function. It does this by increasing neuroplasticity and enhancing repetitive-motion therapy, and, because the patient wears the device, it’s portable. 

“We have high expectations that the Vivistim system will revive hope for stroke survivors by addressing an unmet need for those who have chronic impairment,” said Dr. Harry van Loveren, professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair and vice dean for Clinical Affairs for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and chief of the TGH Neuroscience Institute for Neurosurgery. “Stroke survivors whose hand and arm function haven’t improved can now work with specialists at Tampa General to assess their needs and be treated.”

During rehabilitation exercises and at-home activities, the device gently stimulates the brain via the vagus nerve, which carries signals from the brain to other parts of the body. (“Vagus” is the Latin word for wandering, named because the nerve takes a long, winding course through the body.)

During a patient’s rehabilitation, a therapist signals the device to deliver a gentle pulse to the vagus nerve while the stroke survivor performs a specific or functional task. This pairing of the rehabilitation exercise with VNS strengthens neural connections in areas of the brain outside the damaged region, improving upper-limb function and increasing the effectiveness of the therapy. The device is painless; what users feel is a noticeable improvement in hand and arm function over time, allowing them to return to many of their daily activities. Additionally, it can be used in a home setting once the rehabilitation protocol has been completed.

The Vivistim system received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval following a decade of preclinical research and a randomized controlled clinical trial that was peer-reviewed and published in The Lancet

Stroke survivors who have benefited from Vivistim reported enhancement across numerous quality-of-life measures, including mobility and self-care, according to the report.

“This system, along with the physical therapy regimen, can open new doors for stroke survivors living with the limitations of reduced hand and arm function, which has the potential to greatly improve their quality of life,” said Tom Cairo, senior administrator, Neurosciences, Orthopaedics and Behavioral Health, Tampa General.

Tampa General Hospital, a 981-bed, not-for-profit, academic health system, is one of the largest hospitals in America and delivers world-class care as the region’s only center for Level l trauma and comprehensive burn care. Tampa General Hospital is the highest-ranked hospital in the market in U.S. News and World Report’s 2023-24 Best Hospitals, with six specialties ranking among the top 50 best hospital programs in the United States. Tampa General Hospital has been designated as a model of excellence by the 2022 Fortune/Merative 100 Top Hospitals list. The academic health system’s commitment to growing and developing its team members is recognized by two prestigious Forbes magazine rankings – in the top 100 nationally in the 2023 America’s Best Employers for Women and top 25 in Florida in the 2023 America’s Best Employers by State. Tampa General is the safety net hospital for the region, caring for everyone regardless of their ability to pay, and in fiscal year 2021, provided a net community benefit of approximately $240.3 million in the form of health care for underinsured patients, community education, and financial support to community health organizations in Tampa Bay. It is one of the nation’s busiest adult solid organ transplant centers and is the primary teaching hospital for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. With six medical helicopters, Tampa General Hospital transports critically injured or ill patients from 23 surrounding counties to receive the advanced care they need. Tampa General houses a nationally accredited comprehensive stroke center, and its 32-bed Neuroscience, Intensive Care Unit is the largest on the West Coast of FloridaIt also is home to the Jennifer Leigh Muma 82-bed neonatal intensive care unit, and a nationally accredited rehabilitation center. Tampa General Hospital’s footprint includes TGH North which is comprised of three hospitals and several outpatient locations in Citrus and Hernando counties, 17 Tampa General Medical Group Primary Care offices, TGH Family Care Center Kennedy, TGH Outpatient Center, TGH Virtual Health, and 21 TGH Imaging outpatient radiology centers throughout Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties. Tampa Bay area residents also receive world-class care from the TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track network of clinics. To see a medical care professional live anytime, anywhere on a smartphone, tablet or computer, visit Virtual Health | Tampa General Hospital ( As one of the largest hospitals in the country, Tampa General Hospital is the first in Florida to partner with GE Healthcare and open a clinical command center that provides real-time situational awareness to improve and better coordinate patient care at a lower cost. For more information, go to

USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the Taneja College of Pharmacy, the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs, and USF Health’s multispecialty physicians’ group. The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News & World Report’s national university rankings than USF. For more information, visit

Media Contact: Danielle Caci
Public Relations Manager
(813) 844-4666

SOURCE Tampa General Hospital

Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President and CEO of Ortho Spine Partners and sits on several company and industry related Boards. He also is the Creator and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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