Three million people in the United States suffer from epilepsy an often disabling brain disorder.
When medicine doesn’t control the seizures patients may choose the drastic step of brain surgery. However, a less invasive option has been developed, CBS 2′s Dr. Max Gomez explained.
The conventional approach to treating epilepsy involves opening up a fairly large flap of skull and then cutting out the abnormal part of the brain that serves as the source of the epileptic seizures.
Now, doctors can use a tiny laser fiber to cook the sick brain area.
“My seizures in the beginning were really strong,” Jack Ruiz said, “I would fall down and you know shake.”
The description of Ruiz’s seizures is bad enough but when you actually see what he has been going through since the age of 17 it is disturbing to say the least.
“All this time it’s just been hard for me to work. Hard for me to live,” he said.
Ruiz has been on as many as a dozen pills a day and his seizures still aren’t under control. He recently decided to undergo a new procedure designed to destroy the diseased part of his brain.
“We can treat the abnormal brain areas by heat and disabling them permanently without having to do a craniotomy or opening up the skull in order to reach the brain,” Dr. Ashesh Mehta, North Shore LIJ Medical Center, explained.
Doctors drill a hole into the patient’s skull and thread a thin laser into the diseased part of the brain. While the patient is anesthetized they are transported into an MRI suite where the laser is turned on and a restricted portion of the brain is heated. The MRI monitors temperature to show doctors that the laser is staying in the part of the brain that they need to destroy.
“There’s very little are of the brain that’s stunned. It’s either disabled or not interfered with at all,” Dr. Mehta said.
Two months after his surgery Ruiz said that he is feeling good and ready to go back to work. He still takes some medication but far less than he was before the procedure. If he stays seizure free for an entire year he can return to driving.
As many as a third of epilepsy patients are not well controlled on drugs and could theoretically be candidates for a laser procedure.