DBS: New Relief for Epilepsy Patients?

3 min read  |  July 10, 2019  | 

Recently, a team at the University of Miami Health System performed Florida’s second deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery for a patient with epilepsy who had not responded to other treatments.

DBS offers a new therapeutic strategy for patients whose epilepsy cannot be treated effectively by medications or resective surgery. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the treatment in 2018.

About 30% of the 3.4 million people in the United States who have epilepsy do not respond to medications.

In the U.S., experts have used DBS to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. It involves precisely implanting leads into various FDA-approved areas of the brain and connecting them to an electrical stimulator.

“DBS is like a pacemaker for the brain,” says Jonathan R. Jagid, M.D., a neurosurgeon at the University of Miami Health System. “It works around the clock, disrupting the seizure pattern.”

A pivotal study in the United States showed a significant decline in the frequency of seizures in 60 percent of 110 patients with previously uncontrolled epilepsy.

The FDA has approved DBS for patients 18 years and older.

“While not curative, this therapy over time can yield a reduction of more than 50 percent in seizure frequency in about 60 to 70 percent of patients,” says Dr. Kanner. “Our center is the only facility in South Florida offering this option for safe and effective improvement in seizure frequency.” The UHealth center has received a level IV designation by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers for providing the most comprehensive evaluations and treatments for all forms of epilepsy.

“This is an important step forward in our program,” said Andres M. Kanner, M.D., clinical neurologist and director of the epilepsy center at UHealth. “Many patients can potentially benefit from DBS, one of the types of neuromodulation therapy, which consists of sending electrical pulses to the anterior nucleus of the thalamus and from that structure, to electric circuits of the brain involved in the development of epileptic seizures.”

On June 4, a 35-year-old Miami man who had daily seizures for the past 20 years received the DBS treatment. “We are hopeful that this stimulation will reduce those seizures and allow him to enjoy a much better quality of life,” he said.

The patient, whose name was not released, failed other surgical therapies as well as stimulation of the vagus nerve, another type of neuromodulation therapy for certain types of epilepsy. “DBS can be used in patients who have failed prior surgeries, as well as those who do not respond to medication,” says Dr. Jagid.

The UHealth Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is the oldest comprehensive epilepsy center in South Florida.

Written by Kai Hill for Inventum.

Tags: Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, deep brain stimulation, Dr. Andres M. Kanner, Dr. Jonathan R. Jagid, epilepsy, neurosurgery, seizure

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