Henry Ford Hospital Offers New Alternative to Epilepsy Surgery

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Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital will be the first in Michigan to offer a newly FDA-approved form of electric stimulation for hard-to-treat epilepsy cases that do not respond to drugs or other treatments. Until now, the standard treatment for such cases — which can affect about a third of those with epilepsy — has involved the removal of part of the brain.

“More than 50 percent of patients undergoing surgical removal of brain tissue causing seizures will be cured of their epilepsy,” says Dr. Jason M. Schwalb, a surgical director at Henry Ford. “However, there are people who are not candidates for this type of surgery because of potential side effects. Until now, we have not had great treatment options.”

The procedure, Schwalb says, uses a small, implanted computer that detects seizures from electrodes implanted in or on the surface of the brain. By delivering an electrical pulse, the device helps stop the seizures. In clinical trials, patients experienced a 37.9 percent reduction in seizure frequency.

Schwalb says the system has proved to be safe and effective in patients who, over a period of three months, average three or more disabling seizures per month, with no fewer than two seizures a month.

It is estimated that approximately 400,000 people in the U.S. meet these criteria. The system has not been evaluated in patients who experience less-frequent seizures.

Each year, the Henry Ford Comprehensive Epilepsy Center conducts more than 4,000 clinic appointments, 3,000 EEGs, 300 admissions for monitoring, and more than 30 surgical procedures annually. It includes epilepsy-monitoring units at two hospitals and eight epileptologists.

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