Julian Bailes MD, co-director of NorthShore University HealthSystem Neurological Institute in Evanston, IL, encourages people living with epilepsy who have not seen improvement with medication and continue to suffer from seizures to consider surgical options.
Why should people consider other approaches to treating epilepsy?
An epileptic seizure not adequately controlled by medication is a saga that can last for years. There are new, minimally-invasive surgical alternatives for people whose seizures cannot be treated with medications. Advances in surgical techniques provide additional treatment options for people seeking relief from epileptic seizures and improved quality of life.
What are some of the new techniques that may change people’s perceptions of surgery?
Surgery has become much more effective and precise as a result of working with the entire neurological team. We can now pinpoint the exact location where seizures are starting using MRI, EEG and implanted electrodes.
Another new technique that we are using is laser ablation. The minimally invasive MRI-guided technique called Visualase is now being used by a select number of medical centers around the country. Rather than standard open brain surgery, a laser fiber is inserted into the skull to precisely target areas of the brain causing seizures. Light energy from the laser heats the brain tissue, effectively destroying it. Upon removal of the laser applicator, only one stitch is needed to close the wound. The technology usually requires only an overnight hospital stay. If that area of the brain is removed, that usually clears seizures or helps patients get off medication.
Why should people with epilepsy consider the new procedure?
The new procedure using the MRI-guided laser is safe and poses little risk to the person if done by a qualified surgeon. Surgery for epilepsy is underutilized and very effective for the right people. I encourage people whose epileptic seizures are not under control to see a neurologist or neurosurgeon and ask about the new minimally invasive procedures.