Laser interstitial thermal therapy – LITT – targets the part of the brain causing seizures without the need for invasive surgery

The NHS will roll out a “game-changing” new laser beam therapy next month to help reduce seizures for patients with epilepsy.

The cutting-edge fiber optic laser therapy, known as laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT), targets the part of the brain causing seizures without the need for invasive surgery.

Up to 50 patients in England each year whose epilepsy cannot be controlled by standard anti-seizure drugs will be eligible.

The treatment involves drilling a tiny hole to allow a 1.5mm-wide probe with a fiberoptic laser at the tip to be inserted into the skull. This reaches and destroys the epilepsy-causing brain tissue from the inside by heating it.

Using an MRI scanner, the clinical team navigate through the brain avoiding blood vessels and other critical structures. They also monitor the temperature of the surrounding areas to make sure healthy brain tissue does not overheat.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures. Seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affect how it works. They can cause a wide range of symptoms.

Epilepsy can start at any age, but usually starts either in childhood or in people over 60. It is often lifelong, but can sometimes get slowly better over time.

According to the NHS, seizures can affect people in different ways, depending on which part of the brain is involved. Possible symptoms include:

  • Uncontrollable jerking and shaking, called a “fit”;
  • Losing awareness and staring blankly into space;
  • Becoming stiff;
  • Strange sensations, such as a “rising” feeling in the tummy, unusual smells or tastes, and a tingling feeling in your arms or legs;
  • Collapsing.
  • Sometimes a person might pass out and not remember what happened.

The wound heals quickly, meaning patients can go home the next day with minimal risk of infection or other side effects and can usually return to work and other activities within a week, medics said.

The treatment is being offered at King’s College Hospital in London and The Walton Centre in Liverpool as specialist national hubs.

Laura Diable, 39, from Birkenhead, was one of the first patients with epilepsy to have LITT at The Walton Centre.

She said: “Since having the procedure nearly a year ago, I’ve not had one seizure. It’s made a huge difference to my quality of life. Before, the seizures were incapacitating me, leaving black spots in my memory. Thanks to LITT I’ve been able to get on with my life and worry less about my epilepsy.”

Consultant Neurosurgeon James Palmer, NHS England’s medical director for specialized services, said: “Not only will this world-leading technology help replace invasive surgery for patients, which can have a huge impact take months to recover from, it will also allow clinicians to better target the parts of the brain causing the epilepsy, which dramatically reduces the risks and helps cut patients’ recovery time both in and out of hospital.”


Source:, Paul Gallagher