Recently, deep brain stimulation (DBS) was approved for commercial use in certain patients. Those patients who are suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy and who cannot find relief in other ways could benefit from this type of procedure. Emory Brain Health Center is the first in the United States to treat a patient with this type of technology. This is an exciting and new type of therapy that is minimally invasive, which is something that many patients desire. After all, most do not relish the idea of going through major surgery to help with their drug-resistant epilepsy.
How Does it Work?
DBS utilizes a medical device that is implanted into the patient. This will then provide electrical stimulation to areas of the brain that are specifically targeted. In theory and practice, it works similarly to a pacemaker for the heart. This technology received premarket approval in April of 2018 from the FDA. It is allowed to be used to help “reduce the frequency of partial-onset seizures in individuals 18 years of age or older who are drug resistant to three or more antiepileptic medications.”
The approval came because of the success of the SANTE trial, or Stimulation of the Anterior Nucleus of the Thalamus in Epilepsy. The trial that was completed showed that patients were able to have a “median seizure frequency reduction of 75% at seven years post-implant.”
When the implant is placed into the brain, there are stimulation electrodes, which are very thin, that are used to control different functions in the brain. These will be located in the deep regions of the brain. The implants will then deliver electrical pulses to a target in the brain – the anterior nucleus of the thalamus, or ANT. These are controlled impulses that help to reduce the amount of irregular or abnormal activities in the brain. This can help to relieve the symptoms for patients.
Quite a Big Promise Behind the Procedure
Since there is the potential for this type of therapy to help patients greatly reduce their seizures, there are many who are excited to have this therapy done for themselves or a loved one. However, it is still relatively early in the cycle of the technology. The first use of it in the United States happened at Emory University Hospital in November of 2018, performed by Robert E. Gross, MD, Ph.D., MBNA Bowman Chair in Neurosurgery and professor at Emory University Department of Neurosurgery.
The doctor says that the patient went through the procedure without a problem and that the patient continues to do well. Already, they have seen a decline in the frequency of seizures that the patient has had. With additional treatment, there is hope that they will reduce the occurances even further. This provides hope not only to that patient, but to all patients who suffer from this condition.
Also, Emory has been using DBS therapy for more than just epilepsy. It had already been used to help treat dystonia, tremors and Parkinson’s disease. Now that it has shown just how effective it can be for epilepsy, we may start to see even more use.
This procedure is safe and effective according to the research and results. Those patients who are suffering from epilepsy and are drug resistant may want to speak with their doctors about the possibility of this type of procedure. Currently, it is not available everywhere, but it is a potential possibility. In addition, with more success, it could start to become available in more hospitals around the country.