Deep brain stim­u­la­tion may re­duce seizures

The Kansas City Star - - The Olathe News -

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.

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