May 29, 2020
There are a variety of reasons a lamp stops working. Maybe the bulb burned out. Maybe the lamp cord frayed. Maybe the circuit breaker flipped. Some explanations are quite simple, while others require more investigation. Some fixes are do-it-yourself, while others require an expert. Then it's time to call in an electrician.
Those with epilepsy often view seizures much like that lamp that stops working. Seizures can be simply explained as a short circuit in the brain. When a person has more than 2 unprovoked seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy. Most neurologists begin treatment for newly diagnosed patients with anti-convulsant medications or anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). These medications control seizures for 60-70% of people with epilepsy.
For the remaining 30-40%, their epilepsy is considered uncontrolled or drug-resistant. That means adding further AEDs will provide less than 5% chance of seizure freedom. At this point, it's time to call in an epilepsy specialist – a neurologist called an epileptologist. This type of expert will explore other options for successful seizure control – perhaps including epilepsy surgery.
Brain surgery for epilepsy seizure control can be among the most successful treatments for people with drug-resistant epilepsy. However, people with epilepsy who do receive surgery often do so after tolerating their seizures for an average of 22 years.
There are many barriers and misconceptions regarding epilepsy surgery. The truth is, many surgery options are available for those who are candidates. Early evaluation for epilepsy surgery is crucial in order to increase quality of life in those who manage epilepsy.
If your medications have not provided dependable relief, we encourage you to advocate for yourself and contact an epileptologist. Seizure freedom may be within reach.
Joseph Newman, APRN, is a specialized epilepsy practitioner in our Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. He has focused on epilepsy care since 2015 and joined the health system in 2019. He provides leading epilepsy care that spans inpatient and outpatient settings.