(Ivanhoe Newswire) -
Two-hundred-thousand people will be diagnosed with epilepsy this year. Neurons fire in the brain-creating a storm of electricity that can spark uncontrollable shaking.
Now, advanced tracking and targeting approaches are helping stop the seizures.
It can happen anytime, anywhere.
Every day, three million Americans fear this will happen. Jeff Martig was one of them.
"I was having about thirty a day," Martig said.
They started when Jeff was twelve. The seizures continued for the next 21 years. Striking this high school athletic director at home and work.
"I would feel a sensation in my nose, and then my left side of my face would twitch and then I would start gasping for air," Martig said.
Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic use SEEG to pinpoint exactly where in the brain the seizures start.
"It's a technique to access where the electricity is coming from," Imad Najm, MD Neurologist at Cleveland Clinic said.
SEEG electrodes are snaked into the brain through tiny holes to record those electrical storms. New imaging tools can help doctors pinpoint the exact cause.
"We can see that microscopic level some of these lesions," Najm said.
For the first time in patients with epilepsy, these lesions are being destroyed with lasers. In some cases the lasers go through the same holes created by the SEEG.
"We started using it to ablate small areas of the brain where the seizures may be coming from," Najm said.
After two decades of seizures the problem area in Jeff's brain was removed.
"I haven't had a seizure since. It's like I'm a brand new person. It's amazing," Martig said.
New technology that helped Jeff clear the storms in his head for good.
Surgery is only an option for the 30 to 40-percent of patients who do not respond to medications. The doctor tells us patients who have epilepsy are more prone to cognitive and memory declines later in life. He hopes the surgery will stop that as well.
Epilepsy is when a person experiences repeated seizures, which are episodes of disturbed brain activity that causes changes in attention or behavior. There are various types of seizures that can range from simple staring spells to violent shaking and loss of alertness. The type of seizure depends on the part of the brain affected and the cause of the epilepsy. Epilepsy can be the result of medical condition or injury that affects the brain, although sometimes the cause is not known (idiopathic). A brain tumor, abnormal blood vessels in the brain, certain infections, dementia, and stroke are some things that can cause a person to develop epilepsy. The strange sensations that some people with epilepsy have before a seizure, such as tingling or smelling strange odors, are called auras.
When epileptic seizures are the result of a brain tumor, abnormal blood vessels, or bleeding in the brain, surgery to treat these issues can possibly make the seizures stop. Other possible treatments include medications called anticonvulsants which can help limit the number of future seizures, but if a person misses the medication, it can cause a seizure and many of the drugs cannot be used by pregnant women because of the risk of birth defects. Surgery is another option, especially when the anticonvulsants are not working. The surgery options include removing the abnormal brain cells that cause the seizures, and placing a vagus nerve stimulator, similar to a heart pacermaker, in the brain. (Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov ).
The Cleveland Clinic Epilepsy Center was the first in North America to introduce SEEG, a more precise and less invasive approach to localizing seizures. The SEEG allows doctors to explore larger areas in the brain with little tissue damage, although the main risk of the procedure is bleeding during electrode insertion. Other risks include stroke and infection, though only 2% of the patients will have a complication. The electrodes extend into the folds of the brain where the subdural grids cannot reach and the area where the seizures occur must be known before the doctors are willing to perform the surgery to eliminate those cells. So far, 60% of patients who have completed the SEEG procedures are now seizure free or their seizures have significantly improved. However, doctors recommend that patients continue to take medication for a year after the surgery.