Exploring advances in epilepsy treatment

If a loved one is living with epilepsy, you’re well aware of how debilitating the disorder can be. While traditional epilepsy treatments are effective for some, those who suffer from more severe epileptic symptoms could benefit from surgical treatment.

Drs. Jay Gavvala and Sameer Sheth with Baylor College of Medicine explain differences between traditional vs. minimally-invasive surgical treatments, share advice for families of those with epilepsy and discuss the upcoming Houston Epilepsy Support Group on June 12.

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Q: What are the traditional treatment options for epilepsy?
Gavvala: Traditional treatment options for seizures start with seizure medications. There are about 30 medications available for use and choices are based on existing medical conditions, side effects, risk of interactions with other medications and the type of seizures.

Q: What are common surgical approaches to treating epilepsy?
Sheth:
There are a variety of approaches, and we tailor the choice of approach to the patient’s needs. Many of the newly developed approaches are minimally invasive. But that doesn’t mean that time-tested approaches, some of which require more surgery, are negative. The key is to balance the options and help patients choose which is best to achieve their goals.

Q: Who is a good candidate for epilepsy surgery?
Sheth: This process starts with a neurologist. Neurologists who specialize in epilepsy are extremely important, because they know what other medications should be tried if the first medication doesn’t stop the seizures.

More importantly, they know when to start a discussion about surgery. Many patients are stuck in trial after trial of medications. We know that if two good medication trials have failed to stop seizures, there is very little chance that the third or fifth is going to work. This discussion should occur within a specialized surgical epilepsy center.

Q: What are some topics that will be covered at the Houston Epilepsy Support Group?
Sheth: I will be talking about some of the new advances in the field of epilepsy surgery, including how to detect seizure onset zones, and new ways of treating seizures. The last five years have seen tremendous growth in this area. Patients have a lot more options now compared to just a few years ago.

Q: What advice would you give to loved ones of individuals living with epilepsy?
Gavvala:
My advice for families would be to not give up hope. There are a variety of medications and therapies to help individuals with epilepsy and it sometimes takes a trial-and-error approach to find the right treatment that maximizes therapeutic benefit and minimizes side effects.

Gavvala is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology and Sheth is an associate professor and vice-chair of clinical research in the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor.

Additional Resources

What you need to know about epilepsy

To schedule a visit with the Baylor Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, call 713-798-2273 or request an appointment online.

-By Alexandria Bland, communications coordinator with the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Baylor

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