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How Does Deep Brain Stimulation Treat Epilepsy?

How Does Deep Brain Stimulation Treat Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by unpredictable and recurrent periods of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, known as seizures. Anyone can develop the condition, but it’s most often diagnosed in young children and older adults, with slightly more males affected. Some three million adults in the United States, and about 470,000 children, suffer from it.

Fortunately, epilepsy is a treatable condition, and most people can go on to lead normal lives if they learn how to control their seizures. In some cases, children with epilepsy even outgrow it eventually.

At Center for Neurosurgery Las Vegas, board-certified neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Glickman and his team see a lot of patients with epilepsy, and one of the effective treatments they use is deep brain stimulation (DBS), the implantation of electrodes in the brain to control the electrical activity. As many patients aren’t familiar with the technique, they’ve put together this guide to help inform you.

The basics of epilepsy

Epilepsy can be divided into two primary categories, depending on where the abnormal electrical activity begins.

1. Focal seizures

Focal seizures are also referred to as partial seizures because they originate from activity within a single brain area. They may occur with or without a loss of consciousness or impaired awareness, and which symptoms you have depends on where the seizure starts. The symptoms can easily be confused with those from other neurological disorders, including narcolepsy, migraine, and various mental illnesses, which is why it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis from your neurologist.

2. Generalized seizures

Generalized seizures seem to affect all brain areas and can be subdivided into six different types:

  1. Absence seizures, previously called petit mal seizures
  2. Tonic seizures (muscle stiffness)
  3. Atonic (“drop”) seizures (loss of muscle control, especially in the legs)
  4. Clonic seizures (repeated or rhythmic jerking)
  5. Myoclonic seizures (sudden, brief jerks and twitches)
  6. Tonic-clonic seizures, previously called grand mal seizures

Always seek medical attention the first time you experience any type of seizure.

Causes of epilepsy

Half of epileptics have no identifiable cause for the disorder, while for the other half, causes may include:

Your doctor can give you some guidance on which factors, if any, play a role in your particular case of epilepsy.

How does deep brain stimulation treat epilepsy?

Dr. Glickman implants the DBS electrodes in the brain areas that cause seizures, then they’re programmed by an epilepsy specialist to modulate electrical activity. Modulation simply means that the device changes how individual brain cells or cellular networks work by stimulating them with electrical impulses. DBS is always used in combination with anti-seizure medications. The therapy was FDA-approved for the treatment of seizures in 2018, following approval in Europe, Australia, and Canada.

DBS is used specifically to treat people 18 years and older with uncontrolled focal seizures who don’t respond to appropriate trials of seizure medicines or other types of epilepsy surgery.

The device’s stimulatory currents follow a preset cycle; they’re not generated in direct response to the electrical activity during a seizure. The currents help prevent seizures or reduce their frequency. The device is also designed to capture and report information from the brain to the care team, allowing them to make other appropriate treatment decisions.

DBS is not a cure for epilepsy, but it can decrease seizure frequency and/or severity in many people. Clinical studies have shown:

Don’t expect immediate results, though. As with all other neuromodulation interventions, it can take some weeks and months for DBS therapy to show its full benefit.

If you have epilepsy that’s not controlled with medication or other therapies, deep brain stimulation may be an option for you. To learn more, and to find out if you’re a good candidate, call Center for Neurosurgery Las Vegas at 702-929-8242 to set up a consultation with Dr. Glickman, text us at 725-210-0057, or book your appointment online today. We can help.

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