Friday, May 23, 2008
Medical Reports: Epilepsy
Three million Americans have epilepsy, and believe it or not, for as many as 30 percent, none of the available medicines control their seizures. But in today's Healthcast, Seven's Christine Cruz shows us how new imaging techniques are offering epilepsy patients a hefty dose of hope.
WSVN -- Savannah Taylor looks like a normal school girl, but without warning, frequent epileptic seizures would stop her in her tracks.
Inger Tyree: "She would have blank stares sometimes. Sometimes she would have what they call grand Mal seizures, where she would drool on herself."
Seizures are like short circuits in brain cells, causing confusion, loss of control or tremors. Surgery is the only way to cure epilepsy completely, but pinpoint accuracy is crucial.
Deborah Holder, MD, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh: "We don't want any weakness, any memory problems, any language problems, any vision problems. We don't want to lose anything. So you want to make sure, you take out only the area of the brain making the seizures, not any of the brain surrounding it.
Now, researchers have finally developed new techniques to more accurately map the brain. Sensors placed on a child's head, allow a digital brain wave machine to create a high-tech image of what's happening inside. Surgeons then place dozens of tiny electrodes directly on the brain surface.
P. David Adelson, MD, Pediatric neurosurgeon: "What we're doing is putting 64 electrodes within an eight by eight centimeter square. It's much more concentrated. There's only a centimeter spread between electrodes."
That means doctors can pinpoint the source of the seizure, down to the centimeter. Better screening, means more potential patients with better outcomes, and Dr. Holder says this applies especially to kids.
P. David Adelson: "The brain is still flexible in children. You can take out an area that normally would be memory, and if it's not there, another area takes over. Unlike adults where the brain is set."
Since her surgery, Savannah's seizures have stopped. Her grades have improved, and she just made honor roll. While her mom's happy to have a little scholar, she's more grateful that Savannah can finally enjoy being a kid.
Inger Tyree: "It's so wonderful to see her happy and playing and being normal.
While this new technology may still seem daunting, doctors say that recent studies show the risk of injury from repeated seizures, is much higher than the risk of complications from epilepsy surgery.