Slowing Down Seizures

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MIAMI, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — According to the Epilepsy Foundation, one in 26 Americans will develop the seizure disorder at some point in their lives. Now, new technology is decreasing the frequency of seizures, helping patients live healthier lives.

Mark Weinberg has trouble remembering the car accident that changed his life at 16.

“My parents say I was in a coma for four days,” Weinberg shared.

Weinberg survived but suffered a severe brain injury and started having seizures every week.

“I’ll go up to someone and say can you hold my hand, I think I’m having a seizure,” he said.

Andres Kanner, MD, Chief of the Epilepsy Division at the University of Miami Miller says a seizure is like a short circuit in the brain.

Dr. Kanner explained, “They can lose awareness of their surroundings and be unresponsive and they don’t know what’s happening around them.” (Read Full Interview)

Dr. Kanner says medication can control seizures in 70 percent of patients. But for Mark that wasn’t the case.

Weinberg  said, “I think I’ve been on almost every medicine.”

Now new technology is helping patients like Mark. It’s called responsive neuro stimulation or the RNS system.

“Imagine a pacemaker, which has a computer chip in it,” said Dr. Kanner.

The device made by Neuropace is implanted under the scalp and connected to the areas in the brain causing seizure activity.

Dr. Kanner continued, “As it detects that abnormal pattern it sends an electrical stimulation.”

That stimulation prevents the seizure from happening. Since having the device implanted, Weinberg’s seizures have been cut in half.

“Even if I do have them they’re shorter so I’m not as scared as I used to be,” Weinberg told Ivanhoe.

Now he’s going to college, living a life with fewer seizures.

Dr. Kanner says studies show the device is safe and does not affect cognitive function. Dr. Kanner says in the first year 30 to 40 percent of patients notice their seizure frequency may be cut in half.

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Judy Reich, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS

RESEARCH SUMMARY

 

TOPIC:            SLOWING DOWN SEIZURES

REPORT:        MB #4409

 

BACKGROUND: Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness. Because epilepsy is caused by abnormal activity in the brain, seizures can affect any process your brain coordinates. Seizure signs and symptoms can vary widely and may include temporary confusion, a staring spell, uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs, and loss of consciousness or awareness. To diagnose your condition, your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor may order several tests to diagnose epilepsy and determine the cause of seizures. Your evaluation may include a neurological exam, blood tests, and an electroencephalogram (EEG).  In this test, doctors attach electrodes to your scalp and they record the electrical activity of your brain.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/epilepsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20350093)

 

TREATMENTS: The type of treatment prescribed will depend on several factors, including the frequency and severity of the seizures, as well as the person’s age, overall health, and medical history. Doctors generally begin by treating epilepsy with medication. Anti-seizure medications may have some side effects including, but not limited to: fatigue, dizziness, loss of bone density and speech problems. At least half the people newly diagnosed with epilepsy will become seizure-free with their first medication. If medications don’t treat the condition, doctors may propose surgery or another type of treatment. With epilepsy surgery, a surgeon removes the area of your brain that’s causing seizures. Doctors usually perform surgery when tests show that the seizures originate in a small, well-defined area of the brain.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/epilepsy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350098 and https://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/guide/understanding-seizures-and-epilepsy#2)

 

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Responsive neurostimulation is known as RNS® Therapy. The RNS® System is similar to a heart pacemaker. The device is placed in the bone covering the brain. Tiny wires are placed in one or two places on top of the brain where seizure activity may begin. The system can give small pulses or bursts of stimulation to the brain when anything unusual is detected. This can stop seizure activity before the actual seizure begins. Or it could stop seizure activity from spreading from a small focal seizure to a generalized seizure. People cannot feel the stimulation once it’s programmed; it doesn’t cause pain or any unusual feelings. The RNS® system is designed to work in three ways: monitor brain waves at the seizure focus, all the time, even during sleep, detect unusual electrical activity that can lead to a seizure, and respond within milliseconds to seizure activity by giving small bursts or pulses of stimulation. This goal is to help brainwaves return to normal.  The RNS® System has shown to reduce seizures in most people who have used it. Results from a controlled trial show that 2 out of 3 people with the RNS® System (66%) had their seizures cut in half after 7 years of using it.

(Source: https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epilepsy/devices/responsive-neurostimulation-rns)

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:

Kai Hill

305-243-3249

KHill@med.miami.edu

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Andres M. Kanner, MD

Read the entire Q&A