New Hope for Epilepsy Patients

Karen McNew McGuire's picture
By Karen McNew McGuire on April 4, 2019

When epilepsy doesn't respond to medications, patients look to surgical procedures for help.

Carilion Clinic's Institute for Orthopaedics and Neurosciences is one of only a few locations in the country to use deep brain stimulation (DBS) as a new treatment option for epilepsy.

DBS uses a surgically implanted medical device, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, to deliver carefully controlled electrical stimulation to precisely targeted areas in the brain. It works by electrically stimulating specific structures that control unwanted symptoms.

It has been used for patients with movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, essential tremor and dystonia. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently approved the use of DBS to control the seizures, or synchronized electrical surges in the brain, caused by epilepsy.

I came to Carilion Clinic because of the progressive nature of our health care. We have a very strong value of community as well as curiosity in the care that we deliver. 
~Mark Witcher, M.D., Ph.D.

DBS requires the coordination of a team of neurologists and neurosurgeons. At Carilion Clinic, functional neurosurgeon Mark Witcher, M.D., Ph.D., partners with neurologist Chinekwu Anyanwu, M.D.

"It is absolutely critical to have a comprehensive epilepsy team taking care of patients," says Dr. Witcher.

He performs the implantation procedure and Dr. Anyanwu programs the device based on precise monitoring of each patient's seizure frequency.

"We continue to fine tune it over time based on the patient's seizure response rate," he said.

Because Dr. Anyanwu monitors patients for five to 10 days to determine whether they are a candidate for DBS, she sees a profound difference between their condition before the procedure and after it.

"It is really gratifying to see your patients doing well compared to where they first started," she said. "Epilepsy is one area where you can see a change in a patient who was not doing well on their medication, having seizures every day, and you see how much you have impacted them by choosing the right surgery option for them."

Learn more at CarilionClinic.org/ION. Contact your provider if you have questions about DBS or epilepsy treatment. If you don't have a primary care provider, call Carilion Clinic at 800-422-8482 for a recommendation.