Epilepsy breakthrough: Implant helps stop brain seizures
Except this one has a wireless link to a device implanted in your head that stops epileptic seizures at their source, halting the sudden and violent attacks before they happen.
It’s not science fiction.
For more than 1,000 Americans with the disorder, like 43-year-old Richard Lopez, the system invented by a Silicon Valley medical technology firm has given them back their lives.
If all goes well, Lopez will reach a major goal on Thursday: no seizures for 365 days, the longest peace of mind he’s had since his first epilepsy attack as a teenager.
“I just want to hold up that sign that says ‘ONE YEAR SEIZURE-FREE,’” said the Tracy father of three of the well-known benchmark that fellow epileptics post on the website of the Epilepsy Foundation to mark their breakthroughs. “I love when people do that.”
Today, 3 million Americans suffer from epilepsy, which is associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
Experts say the causes of epilepsy are generally unknown, though some cases might be genetic, while others can be brought on by head trauma, stroke or central nervous system infection.
Most of those who suffer from the disorder require medication only to keep their condition in check. For others, however, removing the part of the brain that is causing seizures might prove most effective in ridding victims of their attacks.
But the so-called responsive neurostimulation system, or RNS for short, developed by Mountain View-based NeuroPace, treats adults with epilepsy who don’t respond to medication or for whom surgery is too risky.
With the RNS system, a neurosurgeon positions the leads of the device at the sources of the seizure and places a neurostimulator in the person’s skull. Most patients go home the next day.
Dr. Vikram Rao, a neurologist at UC San Francisco’s Epilepsy Center, called the system “a game changer” because it helps a large group of patients who have no other alternative to reduce or end their seizures. He compared the system to cardiac pacemakers that detect abnormal heart rhythms, then deliver electrical stimulation to prompt the heart to beat normally. “That’s an analogy people can relate to,” Rao said.