for people ages 18 years and up (full criteria)
study started
estimated completion
Principal Investigator
by Nader Kamangar, M.D. (ucla)



COVID-19 is a disease caused by the virus, SARS-CoV-2. Patients with this viral infection are at risk for developing pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Approximately 20% to 30% of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and pneumonia require intensive care for respiratory support. Clinically, ARDS presents with severe hypoxemia evolving over several days to a week in combination with bilateral pulmonary infiltrates on chest X-ray. Widespread alveolar epithelial cell and pulmonary capillary endothelial injury can lead to severe impairment in gas exchange. In one report of 1,099 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, ARDS occurred in 15.6% of patients with severe pneumonia. In a smaller case series of 138 hospitalized patients, ARDS occurred in 19.6% of patients and in 61.1% of patients admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU). To date, no effective treatment has been established to treat COVID-19 or to prevent progression of ARDS. It is thought that a heightened immune response with an unbalanced release of inflammatory mediators in the airway is a major cause of morbidity and mortality associated with the disease. It is therefore reasonable to postulate that improved outcomes may be obtained in patients with a balanced immune response with adequate viral control and appropriate counter-regulatory immune responses whereas a poor outcome may be expected in patients with inadequate viral control or a heightened immune response or what is referred to as a "cytokine storm". Thus, modulating the pulmonary immune response without suppressing the immune system would be a viable strategy for patients with COVID-19. The current literature supports the role of neuromodulation, particularly vagal nerve stimulation (VNS), in modulating the immune response. Modulating the pro-inflammatory pathway through VNS has been demonstrated to decrease inflammatory mediators and improve outcomes in several animal models and in humans. Percutaneous electrical nerve field stimulation (PENFS) provides a novel, non-invasive method of VNS through a non-implantable device applied to the external ear. Already, the FDA has cleared this technology for reducing symptoms of opioid withdrawal in patients with opioid use disorder. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be decreased by approximately 90% after 1 hour of stimulation. Similarly, the IB-Stim device has been shown to improve symptom in children with abdominal-pain-related functional GI disorders and recently received market approval by the FDA for that indication. Unpublished studies have demonstrated marked decrease in inflammation with PENFS compared to sham stimulation in a model of TNBS colitis. While the efficacy of PENFS in modulating the progression of pulmonary disease in patients with COVID-19 is unknown, several proposed mechanisms for regulation of the immune response through VNS have already been demonstrated. We propose to perform an open label, randomized study to evaluate the efficacy of PENFS for the treatment of respiratory symptoms in patients with COVID-19.


COVID-19 Auricular percutaneous neurostimulation


You can join if…

Open to people ages 18 years and up

  • Age ≥18 years at time of signing Informed Consent Form
  • Hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia confirmed per WHO criteria (including a positive PCR of any specimen, e.g., respiratory, blood, urine, stool, other bodily fluid) and per the investigator, the respiratory compromise is most likely due to COVID-19
  • Patient complaint of dyspnea at the time of presentation to ED or hospital
  • Patient on room air or oxygen supplementation of no greater than 4 liters at rest to maintaining pulse oximetry of 92% or greater. This can include oxygen supplementation by any modality (BIPAP, CPAP, HFNC, NRB, NC), with the exception of mechanical ventilation or ECLS.
  • Signed Informed Consent Form by any patient capable of giving consent, or, when the patient is not capable of giving consent, by his or her legal/authorized representative
  • Ability to comply with the study protocol in the investigator's judgment.

You CAN'T join if...

  • Patients who cannot provide informed consent
  • History of surgery involving CN V, VII, IX, or X.
  • Patient on chronic renal dialysis
  • Patients with history of solid organ transplant
  • Patients with underlying seizures disorder
  • Patients with a cardiac pacemaker
  • Patients with any implanted electrical device
  • Patients with dermatologic conditions affecting the ear, face, or neck region (i.e. psoriasis), or with cuts or abrasions to the external ear that would interfere with needle placement
  • Patients with hemophilia or other bleeding disorders
  • Patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Patients with active TB infection
  • Patient already on mechanical ventilation or ECLS
  • Suspected active bacterial, fungal, viral, or other infection (besides COVID-19)
  • In the opinion of the investigator, progression to mechanical ventilation, ECLS or death is imminent and inevitable within the next 24 hours, irrespective of the provision of treatments
  • Participating in other drug clinical trials
  • ALT or AST > 5 x ULN detected within 24 hours at screening or at baseline (according to local laboratory reference ranges)
  • ANC < 500/µL at screening and baseline (according to local laboratory reference ranges)
  • Platelet count < 50,000/µL at screening and baseline (according to local laboratory reference ranges)
  • Any serious medical condition or abnormality of clinical laboratory tests that, in the investigator's judgment, precludes the patient's safe participation in and completion of the study


  • Olive View-UCLA Medical Center accepting new patients
    Sylmar California 91342 United States

Lead Scientist at UC Health

  • Nader Kamangar, M.D. (ucla)
    Professor of Clinical , Medicine. Authored (or co-authored) 26 research publications.


accepting new patients
Start Date
Completion Date
Olive View-UCLA Education & Research Institute
Study Type
Last Updated