Vagotomy and the risk of mental disorders: A nationwide population-based study

Artemis H Bunyoz, Rune H B Christensen, Sonja Orlovska-Waast, Merete Nordentoft, Preben B Mortensen, Liselotte V Petersen, Michael E Benros

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OBJECTIVE: To investigate vagotomy, the severance of the vagus nerve, and its association with mental disorders, as gut-brain communication partly mediated by the vagus nerve have been suggested as a risk factor.

METHODS: Nationwide population-based Danish register study of all individuals alive and living in Denmark during the study period 1977-2016 and who had a hospital contact for ulcer with or without vagotomy. Follow-up was until any diagnosis of mental disorders requiring hospital contact, emigration, death, or end of follow-up on December 31, 2016, whichever came first. Data were analysed using survival analysis and adjusted for sex, age, calendar year, ulcer type and Charlson comorbidity index score.

RESULTS: During the study period, 113,086 individuals had a hospital contact for ulcer. Of these, 5,408 were exposed to vagotomy where 375 (6.9%) subsequently developed a mental disorder. Vagotomy overall was not associated with mental disorders (HR: 1.10; 95%CI: 0.99-1.23), compared to individuals with ulcer not exposed to vagotomy. However, truncal vagotomy was associated with an increased HR of 1.22 (95%CI: 1.06-1.41) for mental disorders, whereas highly selective vagotomy was not associated with mental disorders (HR: 0.98; 95%CI: 0.84-1.15). Truncal vagotomy was also associated with higher risk of mental disorders when compared to highly selective vagotomy (p=0.034).

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, vagotomy did not increase the risk of mental disorders; however, truncal vagotomy specifically was associated with a small risk increase in mental disorders, whereas no association was found for highly selective vagotomy. Thus, the vagus nerve does not seem to have a major impact on the development of mental disorders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Pages (from-to)67-78
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • immunology
  • inflammation
  • mental disorders
  • vagotomy
  • vagus nerve
  • Hospitals
  • Mental Disorders/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Vagus Nerve
  • Vagotomy


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