Epilepsy occurs when the brain's nerve cells fire abnormal electrical charges, causing seizures. One in 26 people will develop epilepsy. About 3.4 million people throughout the nation live with epilepsy, including 252,720 in Kansas and Missouri. Epilepsy affects people of every age and is the 4th most common neurological disorder.
The University of Kansas Health System’s team of specialized epileptologists – neurologists with deep training specific to epilepsy – is committed to helping you successfully control epilepsy to maximize safety and quality of life.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a condition in which a person's brain has a tendency to have seizures more often than average. We typically reserve this term for someone who has suffered 2 or more unprovoked seizures in their life. A seizure occurs when a group of brain cells becomes hyperactive. This leads to a variety of involuntary symptoms that a person may experience.
Seizures and epilepsy can begin at any age. Although a large population of people with epilepsy is individuals younger than age 10, another large population includes those older than 65.
We offer a variety of appointment types. Learn more or call 913-588-1227 to schedule now.
Epilepsy symptoms and risks
There are many potential causes of epilepsy, including genetics or a brain injury, such as stroke, tumor, infection, head trauma, scar tissue or autoimmune disorder. Sometimes even with sophisticated testing, doctors cannot identify the cause.
Epilepsy can be triggered by genetic factors, Alzheimer's disease or other congenital conditions such as Down syndrome.
Common symptoms of epilepsy include:
- Loss of consciousness or awareness
- Staring spells
- Temporary confusion
- Uncontrollable jerking movement of the arms and legs
The generalized tonic-clonic seizure is the most familiar type of seizure. It affects the entire brain and body, causing rigidity, convulsions and sometimes loss of consciousness. But no single seizure type defines epilepsy. Seizures differ person by person, varying based on the part of the brain affected by the condition.
Seizures can be triggered by:
- Failure to take medication as prescribed
- Flashing or flickering lights
- Lack of food or sleep
Epilepsy diagnosis and screening
Our epilepsy care team offers the most advanced expertise and technologies for making correct diagnoses. Through inpatient and outpatient services, we obtain all the information we need to determine:
- The cause of the seizures
- The precise origin of the seizure activity
- The type of epilepsy
Diagnostic tools may include:
- Electroencephalogram (EEG), a measurement of the brain's electrical activity and the primary test used to diagnose epilepsy
- Functional MRI (fMRI), which allows care teams to localize language, motor and vision activities in the brain and includes specialized oversight by a neuropsychologist
- Ictal single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with epilepsy protocol that helps providers locate subtle lesions
- Neuropsychological tests
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
- 24/7 video EEG monitoring to determine the type and origin of seizures
Innovative treatments for epilepsy
Our specialty focus, collaborative approach to care, and position as a premier academic health system at the forefront of research and discovery combine to give you access to a complete range of advanced treatment options for epilepsy. We create personalized epilepsy treatment care plans based on your condition and wishes.
About 65% of people with epilepsy can be free of seizures with the help of 1-2 seizure medications. Our team helps you assess the most effective medication options for controlling seizures while monitoring and managing any accompanying side effects.
However, about 35% of those with epilepsy will continue to have some seizures despite treatment with medications. In this group of people, further testing by an epilepsy specialist can help investigate additional treatment options, such as surgery for epilepsy.
Research indicates that people who continue to have seizures after trying 2 different medications have a less than 4% chance of finding success with additional medications. For individuals with drug-resistant epilepsy, we offer the latest surgical techniques:
- Minimally invasive laser thermal ablation brings surgical precision to the removal of diseased tissue while protecting the surrounding healthy tissue.
- Responsive neurostimulation is implanted technology that senses seizures and stops them before patients become aware they have begun.
Why choose us for epilepsy
- Our epileptologists in Kansas City work with other specialists whose expertise benefits people with epilepsy. This collaboration can make a crucial difference in your care.
- Our Level 4 Epilepsy Center, accredited by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers, is the only 1 of its kind in the state of Kansas. We earn and retain this meaningful designation – held by only about 100 epilepsy programs in the country – by delivering proven, best-practice care and offering medical, neuropsychological and psychosocial care for people with drug-resistant epilepsy.
- We offer specialized care for women with epilepsy who are or wish to become pregnant.
Find a doctor
Doctors at The University of Kansas Health System are care providers and researchers at the forefront of new medical discoveries. From primary care to complex conditions, we offer hundreds of specialists.