Deep brain stimulation may reduce seizures
Q: How does deep brain stimulation for epilepsy work? Who’s a good candidate for this treatment? Is it effective?
A: Deep brain stimulation is a technique that uses a wire placed permanently in the brain to send electrical pulses to the brain. It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat epilepsy that hasn’t responded to other forms of therapy. In most people, deep brain stimulation doesn’t completely eliminate seizures caused by epilepsy, but it can significantly reduce seizures.
Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder. In a person with epilepsy, nerve cell activity in the brain becomes abnormal, causing seizures and sometimes loss of consciousness. The symptoms of a seizure can vary widely from one person to another.
Even mild epilepsy requires treatment because seizures can be dangerous. Medication to reduce or eliminate seizures usually is the first step in treatment. For about two-thirds of people with epilepsy, seizures are effectively controlled with the first or second antiseizure drug they try.
When medication doesn’t provide adequate seizure control, surgery may be an option.
A large clinical research trial found that in people with epilepsy whose seizures didn’t respond to other therapies, around 15 percent became seizurefree for more than six months after deep brain stimulation. Although that number is fairly low, it represents significant – often life-changing – improvement for those individuals.
But the goal of deep brain stimulation typically is not complete relief of all seizures. Instead, it’s used as a method to reduce the number of seizures a person has. The same clinical trial showed that between 50 and 60 percent of patients in the study had a decrease in their seizures.