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Erasing epilepsy: stopping storms in the brain

September 25, 2012 3:31:58 PM PDT
Two-hundred-thousand people will be diagnosed with epilepsy this year. Neurons fire in the brain-creating a storm of electricity that can spark uncontrollable shaking. Now, advanced tracking and targeting approaches are helping stop the seizures.

It can happen anytime, anywhere.

Every day, three million Americans fear this will happen. Jeff Martig was one of them.

"I was having about thirty a day," Martig said.

They started when Jeff was twelve. The seizures continued for the next 21 years. Striking this high school athletic director at home and work.

"I would feel a sensation in my nose, and then my left side of my face would twitch and then I would start gasping for air," Martig said.

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic use S-E-E-G to pinpoint exactly where in the brain the seizures start.

"It's a technique to access where the electricity is coming from," Imad Najm, MD Neurologist at Cleveland Clinic said.

S-E-E-G electrodes are snaked into the brain through tiny holes to record those electrical storms. New imaging tools can help doctors pinpoint the exact cause.

"We can see that microscopic level some of these lesions," Najm said.

For the first time in patients with epilepsy, these lesions are being destroyed with lasers. In some cases the lasers go through the same holes created by the S-E-E-G.

"We started using it to ablate small areas of the brain where the seizures may be coming from," Najm said.

After two decades of seizures the problem area in Jeff's brain was removed.

"I haven't had a seizure since. It's like I'm a brand new person. It's amazing," Martig said.

New technology that helped Jeff clear the storms in his head for good.

Surgery is only an option for the 30 to 40-percent of patients who do not respond to medications. The doctor tells us patients who have epilepsy are more prone to cognitive and memory declines later in life. He hopes the surgery will stop that as well.

For more information please visit: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/Documents/Epilepsy_Center/SEEG%20Fact_Sheet_022210.pdf

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