Arfa Rana · CBC News · 

Makayla Douglass was the first patient in Canada to undergo Radiofrequency Thermocoagulation treatment


Makayla Douglass is a soft-spoken 11-year old who loves the colour blue, plays the clarinet and will soon be singing in an upcoming school concert.

But unlike other pre-teens, Makayla was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was one and was suffering up to 30 seizures daily.

Epilepsy is one of the the most common paediatric neurological conditions, impacting one in every hundred children, according to the physicians treating the London, Ont. girl.

Last year, Makayla became the first patient in Canada to undergo a new procedure to treat her seizures using a state-of-the-art robotic arm.

“It was a very bumpy journey,” said Dr. Andrea Andrade, director of the pediatric epilepsy program at Children’s Hospital at the London Health Sciences Centre.

The new procedure is called Radiofrequency Thermocoagulation, and it uses radio waves through electrodes to heat and destroy tissue in the brain that are sources of seizure activity. The minimally invasive procedure was done with the help of ‘ROSA One Brain’, the name given to a new robotic arm.

“This newer procedure, using the robotic arm, is less scary for patients and their families because it is all done through electrodes in a controlled manner. It is also minimally invasive with an amazingly fast recovery time, compared to an open skull surgery,” says Dr. Andrade.

Nurse wearing her scrubs touches red and white technology.
The robotic arm guides surgeons during open surgery to help them map the area where the seizure is coming from. (Arfa Rana/CBC)

The first time it was performed on Makayla, her seizures were reduced by 70 per cent, prompting her family to allow for a second attempt. That was six month ago, and she has not had a seizure since.

“We can sleep again, just be at peace knowing we don’t have to run a few seconds notice to keep her safe,” said mother Jeannie Douglass who notes the seizures were mostly happening at night.

The robotic arm was donated by the Children’s Health Foundation last year. Dr. Andrade said hopes that other hospitals will have the means to purchase a robotic arm so the procedure will be more available to patients across Ontario.

Woman with short, curly black hair and thick-rimmed blue glasses smiles.

Dr. Andrea Andrade is the director of the pediatric epilepsy program at children’s hospital at the London Health Sciences Centre. (Arfa Rana/CBC)

“Prior to the surgery, we weren’t sure what Makayla’s life would look like as an adult. How would she function?” said dad Jeff Douglass. “And so we really see a way to go forward where she can live a full life and have a good quality of life.”