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Technology gives epilepsy specialists an inside look at seizures

January 28, 2016 | Patricia Harriman

The flash drive-sized transmitter implanted in Jorge Portillo’s skull last spring offers his epilepsy neurologist something not possible before — a daily glimpse into his brain’s seizure activity.

Portillo rubs a special magnet over his head that records and transmits his brain wave activity to UCI Health epilepsy specialist Dr. Lilit Mnatsakanyan. From her office, she can monitor data of Portillo’s brain wave activity when he is awake, asleep, having a seizure or not having a seizure.

“This device helps both doctors and patients learn more about epilepsy,” says the neurologist, who is part of the UCI Health Comprehensive Epilepsy Program. “It provides unique opportunities we previously did not have in terms of seizure detection and treatment.”

Relief from seizures and remote monitoring

The RNS® System (responsive neurostimulation system), developed by NeuroPace®, provides relief from seizures and — unlike other neurostimulation systems — contains a remote monitoring device that can send data back to Mnatsakanyan for evaluation.

During surgery, the transmitter was implanted in Portillo’s skull; two electrodes were placed in the areas of his brain where his seizures originate to constantly monitor his brain wave activity. When the system detects unusual activity, it transmits an electronic pulse that helps to prevent seizures before they start or to diminish their duration and severity.

“I can make treatment decisions based on that data,” Mnatsakanyan explains. “I make any necessary changes to the system settings when Jorge is in my office for better seizure control.”

Unique, long-term benefits

Medication or surgery works to control seizures for the majority of the 2 million U.S. epilepsy patients. But for patients such as Portillo, neither treatment is an option. His seizures are medication-resistant and surgery to remove the lesions in his brain would leave him paralyzed.

“The still-novel RNS treatment is a big leap forward for treating epilepsy patients like Jorge,” Mnatsakanyan says. “Unlike medications, the effects of NeuroPace do not wear off. Even more exciting is the fact that he is in the early stages of this treatment and will continue to show improvements.”

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