A new hope: Innovative options for patients with intractable epilepsy

A new hope: Innovative options for patients with intractable epilepsy

Patients with intractable epilepsy have seizures that are difficult to control with medication. These uncontrolled seizures are a serious health condition that be potentially life-threatening.

But there is hope for patients with intractable epilepsy. The UCLA Epilepsy Program is a unique program that offers multiple approaches for treating patients, from traditional surgery to innovative nonsurgical approaches and newer minimally invasive procedures.

Does epilepsy treatment always involve surgery?
The people who can most benefit from an epilepsy center are often not referred to one. Jerome Engel, Jr., MD, PhD, director of the UCLA Seizure Disorder Center, explains that many referring physicians mistakenly assume that an epilepsy center focuses exclusively on surgery. So doctors who feel their patients don’t want or aren’t candidates for surgery may decline to refer their patients.

However, today’s innovative epilepsy centers offer surgery alongside an array of other types of treatments.

First step: Get to the bottom of it
When you come to the UCLA Seizure Disorder Center, a team of specialists performs a full evaluation using the latest technology. Results may determine:

  • No epilepsy: It could be a different condition entirely is causing your seizures. A different treatment method may be successful for that particular condition.
  • Wrong medications: Perhaps your particular medication regimen is not the right one for your needs. Switching to a different one may offer better results.
  • Try a trial: You may be a candidate for an experimental drug trial, an opportunity to test new medications before they are available to the general public.

What’s new in epilepsy surgery?
After your evaluation, you and your healthcare team may decide that surgery is the best option for your long-term health. Surgeons at UCLA’s Seizure Disorder Center perform procedures that stop seizures in a high percentage of cases with minimal or no side effects. And with recent surgical advances, more patients are candidates for these life-altering procedures than ever before.

Epilepsy surgery is not a one-size-fits-all solution, however. In addition to traditional epilepsy surgery – typically a resection surgery, where the surgeon removes the part of the brain causing the seizures – there are new approaches you may be a candidate for:

  • Responsive neurostimulation: A device implanted in the brain detects changes that signal a seizure is beginning and triggers electrical impulses that stop the seizure from happening. This can significantly reduce the frequency of seizures, says Dawn Eliashiv, MD, co-director of the UCLA Seizure Disorder Center, and may be an option if you have seizures on both sides of your brain or if your seizures occur near parts of your brain too risky to remove surgically.
  • Laser thermal ablation: This procedure destroys the electrical abnormality in the brain that causes seizures by heating the brain tissue to the point that it can no longer produce seizures, explains John Stern, MD, co-director of UCLA Seizure Disorder Center. This option is less invasive and suitable for a wider range of patients, especially those whose seizure areas are small and hard to reach through traditional surgery.

For more information on our innovative approach to epilepsy care for adults and children, visit the UCLA Epilepsy Program.

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