Thursday, December 13, 2007
Medical Reports: Stopping Seizures
Epileptics spend their life wondering when the next seizure will hit them, but, tonight, Seven's Richard Lemus shows how a new device is stopping seizures.
WSVN -- Sydney Pershing was diagnosed with epilepsy at 13.
Sydney Pershing: "I have partial complex seizures. I kind of stare off into space."
Because of the epilepsy, she was pretty much housebound. She couldn't drive. Her life was out of her hands.
Sydney Pershing: "I was sitting in my room, you know, at my mom's house doing nothing. I was about 287 pounds."
She tried many different types of medications.
Sydney Pershing: "It was just difficult. The doctors were giving me medications that were not controlling the epilepsy."
But two years ago Dr. Eugene Ramsay from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine tried something new.
She heard about VNS Therapy, a vagus nerve stimulator.
Sydney Pershing: "I was ecstatic about it."
Dr. Eugene Ramsay: "It's very much like a cardiac pacemaker. It is implanted in a very similar place."
The device has wires running to the base of the neck, which connect to the vagus nerve.
Dr. Eugene Ramsay: "We put electrodes around the nerve and stimulate the nerve on a regular basis, usually every five minutes, every 10 minutes."
The electrical charge helps patients control their seizures.
Sydney Pershing: "I take the magnet for the stimulator, and I swipe it across my chest, and it stops the seizure from occurring."
And if one does occur, it reduces the length of the episode.
Sydney Pershing: "I will be staring off into space, that usually lasts about 40 minutes. It will cut it down to maybe 15 or 20 minutes."
There is only one side effect, when the stimulator goes off, the patient's voice changes for about 30 seconds.
Sydney Pershing: "It's going off right now."
The surgery takes no more than one hour, and the scars are barely noticeable.
Dr. Eugene Ramsay: "One is at the base of the neck, the other is on the lateral portion of the chest."
The VNS is expected to last nine to 10 years.
Dr. Eugene Ramsay: "When the battery goes dead, the entire device is taken out. The electrode up to the vagus nerve is left in place."
As of now, doctors believe patients will need to keep the device for rest of their lives, but the medications will be reduced significantly. Now, at 30, Sydney is happy to feel a sense of control.
Sydney Pershing: "My life changed dramatically. I now have my own apartment, I have my own job."
Richard Lemus: "Doctors are also using VNS Therapy to treat patients suffering from depression."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Dr. Eugene Ramsay
Director, International Center for Epilepsy
UM Miller School of Medicine
Professional Arts Center Suite 410
1150 NW 14 St.
Miami, FL 33196