Conditions and Treatments

Epilepsy (also called seizure disorder) is among the most common diseases of the nervous system. Approximately 1.5-2 percent of the American population has epilepsy.

Epilepsy can affect anyone and can start at any age. It is especially likely to start in children and older adults. Epilepsy commonly reduces your quality of life by limiting your activities and mobility. With the right medical care, most people with epilepsy can gain control over their seizures.

The Clinical Neuroscience Institute (CNSI) at Premier Health provides specialized, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment for epilepsy and seizure disorders. Our multidisciplinary staff includes:

  • Neurologists
  • Neurosurgeons
  • Radiologists
  • Social workers

We work to control and manage epilepsy, with the goal of reducing the number of recurring seizures and improving quality of life for you and your family.

What Is a Seizure and What Is Epilepsy?

An epileptic seizure happens when cells in your brain, which normally act independently, become synchronized. You can imagine it like when people in a stadium do “the wave.” The effect of synchronized activity interrupts the cells’ normal function. Depending on where “the wave” starts and how far it spreads, the seizure may have different effects. It may:

  • Not be noticeable at all
  • Cause abnormal movements, emotions or sensations
  • Cause staring spells and loss of awareness
  • Cause a general seizure

A general seizure is the convulsion (shaking of the body) that most people think of when they hear about seizures and epilepsy.

Single seizures with known causes are not epilepsy. About 10 percent of Americans will have at least one seizure in their lifetimes. Fever, head injury and stroke are common causes of seizures, but even a normal brain can experience a seizure under certain conditions.

If your seizures occur repeatedly without an obvious cause, epilepsy is the likely diagnosis. The reason for your epilepsy may not be immediately known, but it’s important to try to find the cause. Some types of epilepsy run in families. Other conditions can cause epilepsy, including:

  • Brain tumors
  • Developmental disorders
  • Head injuries
  • Infectious diseases
  • Strokes

Diagnosing Epilepsy

CNSI’s comprehensive epilepsy program has a thorough approach to epilepsy treatment, which includes:

  • Establishing a diagnosis of epilepsy or seizures
  • Determining the type of epilepsy
  • Providing a treatment program that best matches your needs

Initial diagnosis starts with a meeting with one of our neurologists, who will take a detailed personal and family medical history and perform a neurologic examination. You may need testing, such as:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG: brain-wave testing)
  • Video EEG monitoring (brief hospitalization to record and analyze your seizures to determine the type of epilepsy or where it starts in your brain)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
  • Neuropsychological testing (interviews and questions, given in a specialist’s office, that help determine which areas of brain function might be at risk from surgery)

Our fellowship-trained, board-certified team of epileptologists and our electroencephalograph (EEG) technicians use the world’s leading tools and technology to monitor your health 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Depending on what we find, we may recommend other tests. You also may be introduced to a case manager who will help you understand and navigate the diagnosis and treatment process.

Medications for Epilepsy

Medication is the foundation of epilepsy treatment, and many medications are used to treat epilepsy. It’s not always easy to determine which medication or combination of medications works best with the fewest side effects. Usually, your CNSI doctor will want to try more than one medication to determine what works best for you.

The length of time you must use mediation is hard to predict. People usually stay on medications for at least two years and often for much longer.

Surgery for Epilepsy

For some people, medication alone isn’t enough to get complete relief from seizures. In these cases, surgery may be an option. Even if you have surgery, you’ll probably have to continue some medication for the best control of your seizures.

Epilepsy surgery isn’t a new; it has been used for more than 100 years. In the past 50 years, there’s been steady improvement and success in surgical treatment of epilepsy.

Surgery usually involves removing an abnormal area of brain tissue where seizures start. Some people may benefit from a different surgical approach, such as implanting stimulators. The vagus-nerve stimulator is one example.

If we decide you may benefit from surgery, you first have a series of tests to plan the surgery and make sure it will provide the best and safest outcome. These tests commonly include:

  • Neuropsychological testing (interviews and questions, given in a specialist’s office, that help determine which areas of brain function might be at risk from surgery)
  • “Wada” tests (a specialized form of testing using anesthesia medications to help map the parts of the brain that must be protected during surgery)
  • Placement of electrodes (similar to those used for EEG testing) directly on the brain during a special operation under anesthesia (to pinpoint the source of the seizures)

It is very important to ask questions when you visit your CNSI doctor. You are a vital part of your CNSI team, helping to ensure a successful outcome for your treatment.

Research and Investigational Studies

CNSI participates in research and clinical trials to advance treatments for epilepsy and other seizure disorders. If you’re interested in learning more, ask your neurologist about which studies are available and whether you’re eligible to join.

For more information about epilepsy at CNSI, and for a referral to one of our neurologists or neurosurgeons, call toll free 1 (844) 277-28941 (844) 277-2894.