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UC Irvine center recognized for top epilepsy care

April 16, 2012
Dr. Mona Sagar

UC Irvine’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Program has again earned the highest designation for care from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. Level 4 epilepsy centers have the professional expertise and facilities necessary to provide the greatest level medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy.

“An evaluation and treatment at a Level 4 center offers someone with epilepsy the best opportunity to learn what type of disease they have and understand all treatment options available,” said Dr. Mona Sazgar, neurologist and epilepsy program director. The association first designated UC Irvine as a top-level center in 2006.

The designation recognizes the program’s state-of-the-art neurodiagnostic monitoring, neuro-imaging and nuclear imaging technologies and extensive range of medical and surgical treatment options for epilepsy. UC Irvine is one of about 140 facilities in the nation with Level 4 status.

UC Irvine epilepsy neurologist Dr. Jack Lin said retaining Level 4 status is a testament to the comprehensive epilepsy program’s team, which includes board-certified neurologists with subspecialty training and expertise in managing people with epilepsy, as well as a fellowship-trained neurosurgeon, neuroradiologists, a neuropsychologist, electroencephalography (EEG) technologists, nursing specialists, physician’s assistants and a nurse practitioner. Sazgar and Lin are listed in U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 “Top Doctors” database.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association illustrates why evaluation at top-level comprehensive epilepsy center is critical to a patient’s long-term well-being. The findings suggest that epilepsy sufferers may benefit from surgery to cure their seizures rather than years of taking anti-epilepsy medication which may not control them.

Too often community-based neurologists continue to treat patients with medication even after determining that the drugs are not effective, Sazgar said. Comprehensive centers are the only places equipped to fully assess a patient’s condition, including whether surgery could alleviate their seizures, she said

“We can usually tell within the first couple of months whether or not an anti-epileptic medication will work,” said Sazgar.

Epilepsy is the third most common neurological disorder in the United States after Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. It is not a single entity but a family of more than 40 syndromes that affect nearly 3 million people in the U.S. and about 35,000 in Orange County. Epilepsy strikes most often among the very young and the very old, although anyone can get it at any age.

UC Irvine’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Program collaborates with UC Irvine Epilepsy Research Center to conduct research and help patients achieve the highest quality of life possible. Through education, research and direct patient care, the programs develop a greater understanding of epilepsy that will ultimately lead to its prevention and cure. Research center founder Dr. Tallie Z. Baram is considered the world’s leading investigator of the basic neural mechanisms involved in childhood febrile seizures – seizures caused by high fever – and how prolonged febrile seizures might lead to the onset of adult epilepsy.

-UCI Health Communications