UCI Health offers new neurostimulation treatment to control epilepsy seizures

Implanted device automatically responds to abnormal brain wave activity

August 31, 2015

UCI Health is the first health system in Orange County to offer epilepsy patients a treatment that can control seizures as they happen. An implanted device monitors brain waves and delivers electrical pulses when abnormal activity is detected.

This innovative approach, called responsive neurostimulation, can provide a new treatment option for many whose seizures cannot be controlled by drugs or surgery. The system also permits a neurologist to remotely monitor a patient’s brain activity and adjust the stimulation when necessary.

UCI Health neurosurgeon Dr. Sumeet Vadera, director of epilepsy surgery, recently implanted the Neuropace RNS® system in the skull of 36-year-old Jorge Portillo. Like 30 percent of the 2 million Americans affected by epilepsy, Portillo’s seizures are medication-resistant, and surgery to remove the brain lesions where seizures originate would leave him paralyzed. Portillo experienced his first seizure at nine months, and has endured as many as 50 a month.

Patients like Portillo with complex epilepsy benefit from tight collaboration between neurosurgeons and specially-trained epilepsy neurologists in the UCI Health Comprehensive Epilepsy Program.

Vadera first implanted electrodes on Portillo’s brain to localize the seizures while UCI Health neurologist Dr. Lilit Mnatsakanyan recorded brain activity. When they found Portillo’s seizures originated in an area of the brain that affected his motor skills, the team decided to implant the RNS device. Vadera inserted the neurostimulator, which is about the size of a thumb drive, under Portillo’s skull. He then placed electrodes in the portions of Portillo’s brain where seizures originate.

“Responsive neurostimulation offers a different approach to treatment for patients like Jorge, who suffer from refractive epilepsy,” Vadera said. “Although it is not a cure, the system reduces the frequency and severity of his seizures, giving him an effective solution when others have failed. He now has some hope.”

Mnatsakanyan remotely accesses and evaluates Portillo’s brain data, which is collected and transmitted via a circular magnet which he rubs over his head every night. If necessary, she can adjust the system’s stimulation settings for better seizure control.

This innovative treatment received FDA approval in November 2013. The UCI Health Comprehensive Epilepsy Program is one of only 10 on the West Coast, and the only Southern California epilepsy center outside of Los Angeles, to offer the system.

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 411-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 15 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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