Northwestern Medicine Brings Hope to Patients with Severe Epilepsy

Northwestern Medicine
Neurosciences June 10, 2014
For the more than 2 million Americans living with epilepsy, managing seizures is the key to living a normal life. And for many, medications do just that - allowing them to drive, have jobs and raise families. But for almost one-third of epileptics, medicine is not enough.

Specialists at Northwestern Medicine’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center recently started using a new surgical procedure that could change the lives of these epileptics who are unable to control their seizures with medication. Stereoelectroencephalography, or SEEG, is a groundbreaking procedure that is used to surgically identify areas of the brain where epileptic seizures originate. During SEEG, doctors place electrodes on these areas, which are then monitored to precisely locate the seizure source. When the seizure onset is localized, these lesions are destroyed with lasers. In some cases the lasers go through the same holes created by the SEEG. Northwestern Memorial Hospital is one of just a few centers in the country to offer SEEG as a treatment option for epilepsy. 
“This procedure is the safest and least invasive surgical option to treat epilepsy today,” said Stephan Schuele, MD, MPH, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center and assistant professor in neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “For people who don’t respond to medication, this is a very effective surgery with a lower risk of complications compared to traditional epilepsy surgeries.”

Because SEEG is more accurate and less invasive, patients experience better results and a shorter recovery time, Schuele added. 

Epilepsy is a disease of the brain that causes recurrent, unprovoked seizures. The seizures are caused by brief disturbances in the electrical functions of the brain. These disruptions in electrical activity may cause abnormal sensations such as numbness, strange taste or smell, a loss of consciousness, or uncontrolled bodily movements. Often, the person is only partially aware of the seizure. More than 150,000 new patients – both children and adults – are diagnosed with epilepsy every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SEEG is the perfect match of the latest medical advancements and leading edge technology, said Joshua Rosenow, MD, director of functional neurosurgery at Northwestern Memorial and associate professor of neurological surgery, neurology, and physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Feinberg School.

“SEEG allows us to locate exactly where the seizures start in the brain and on a microscopic level destroy some of these lesions,” Rosenow said. “The results are extremely promising. Once they recover from surgery, most of these patients live seizure-free lives.”

The Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Northwestern Memorial, in collaboration with the Feinberg School, is designated a Level 4 referral center by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. This designation certifies that the Comprehensive Epilepsy Monitoring Center provides the highest level of medical and surgical diagnostic and treatment options for epilepsy patients.
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