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Erasing Epilepsy: Stopping Storms In Your Brain

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BACKGROUND:  Epilepsy is when a person experiences repeated seizures, which are episodes of disturbed brain activity that causes changes in attention or behavior. There are various types of seizures that can range from simple staring spells to violent shaking and loss of alertness. The type of seizure depends on the part of the brain affected and the cause of the epilepsy. Epilepsy can be the result of medical condition or injury that affects the brain, although sometimes the cause is not known (idiopathic). A brain tumor, abnormal blood vessels in the brain, certain infections, dementia, and stroke are some things that can cause a person to develop epilepsy. The strange sensations that some people with epilepsy have before a seizure, such as tingling or smelling strange odors, are called auras.   (Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).

TREATMENT:  When epileptic seizures are the result of a brain tumor, abnormal blood vessels, or bleeding in the brain, surgery to treat these issues can possibly make the seizures stop. Other possible treatments include medications called anticonvulsants which can help limit the number of future seizures, but if a person misses the medication, it can cause a seizure and many of the drugs cannot be used by pregnant women because of the risk of birth defects. Surgery is another option, especially when the anticonvulsants are not working. The surgery options include removing the abnormal brain cells that cause the seizures, and placing a vagus nerve stimulator, similar to a heart pacermaker, in the brain. (Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).

NEW TECHNOLOGY: The Cleveland Clinic Epilepsy Center was the first in North America to introduce SEEG, a more precise and less invasive approach to localizing seizures. The SEEG allows doctors to explore larger areas in the brain with little tissue damage, although the main risk of the procedure is bleeding during electrode insertion. Other risks include stroke and infection, though only 2% of the patients will have a complication. The electrodes extend into the folds of the brain where the subdural grids cannot reach and the area where the seizures occur must be known before the doctors are willing to perform the surgery to eliminate those cells. So far, 60% of patients who have completed the SEEG procedures are now seizure free or their seizures have significantly improved. However, doctors recommend that patients continue to take medication for a year after the surgery. (Source: www.clevelandclinic.org)

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Imad M Najm, MD
Cleveland Clinic

(216) 445-1007
najmi@ccf.org


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