Overcoming Epilepsy

Karen McNew McGuire's picture
By Karen McNew McGuire on April 7, 2017

Chelsey Mayhew was in her early 20s and had just married Zach, her sweetheart of seven years.  She was looking forward to graduating from Jefferson College of Health Sciences, but then she started having several seizures a day and was diagnosed with epilepsy.

“I don’t really know what is going on,” she said about the seizures. "I just kind of stare and if someone were to talk to me, it kind of just sounds like jibber jabber.”  

Chelsey spent her first wedding anniversary in the hospital for monitoring with her husband Zach by her side. She tried six different medications, but the seizures didn’t go away. Meanwhile, an MRI showed that a cystic lesion in her brain was causing the seizures. The lesion meant she was an ideal candidate for a new laser ablation procedure being performed by Mark Witcher, M.D., Functional Neurosurgery, at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.  

“In the past, in order to treat that, we would have to do a fairly large surgery,” explained Dr. Witcher. “Laser ablation is a new technology that has only been available for a few years, but what it allows us to do is to provide very specific energy into very specific focus within the brain while being minimally invasive.”  

Dr. Witcher is the first in the region to offer laser ablation for epilepsy and brain tumors. It is a technology that is so advanced it requires very precise preparation before surgery, which involves treatment with a laser through a 3 millimeter hole in the skull. And since it is such a minimally invasive procedure, most patients are able to go home the day after surgery.

The hope is that patients get permanent relief from seizures after the procedure, and so far this seems to be the case with Chelsey. At her six-week follow-up, Chelsey had been seizure free.

“I haven’t had any seizures," she said. "I haven’t had to worry about that, which has been nice. I don’t feel as worried as I usually would when I am just talking to people.”   

Now, for the first time in years, Chelsey is able to concentrate on her work as an occupational therapy assistant at various Franklin County schools and look ahead to the future with her husband.  
 
Laser ablation is one of several specialized options Carilion Clinic Neurosurgery provides patients. For more information, contact the Institute for Orthopaedics and Neurosciences at 540-224-5170.