AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 3 million Americans suffer epileptic seizures, a neurological brain condition that can trigger convulsions or even render you unconscious, without any warning. There is a new brain implant now that can detect and stop a seizure before it begins, and the Seton Comprehensive Epilepsy Center — the only Level 4 unit of its kind in the area — has performed its first implant of the device.
“The idea is to prevent seizures from happening; it is not intended as a cure,” said Dr. Pradeep Modur, director of the program.
Seizures can hit anyone at any age for a variety of reasons. For one in three epileptics, medication cannot manage them. But the NeuroPace device can. It is a thumb-size, battery-powered computer that detects an oncoming seizure and zaps it with electrical stimulation — much the way a defibrillator works with your heart.
“It depends on the patient’s individual seizures, so you can teach the system over time what the patient’s seizures will look like,” explains Modur. “When they come back for a clinical appointment, you can tweak the system, and over time, it can get better.”
The first patient in Central Texas to receive the NeuroPace, a 41-year-old woman from East Texas, went home within two days of the surgery and will be monitored long-distance. Surgery to remove the part of the brain causing a seizure is not always an option, and that’s where the NeuroPace comes in. The surgery costs roughly $40,000 and is covered by most insurance plans and Medicare. Doctors point out that the price pays for itself in reduced hospital care and the greater productivity of a normal life without seizures.
Dr. Robert Buchanan, chief of Functional Neurosurgery at UT Dell Medical School, performed the operation here.
“This procedure, for the first time, allows those patients to be discussed again; they now have some hope,” points out Buchanan.
And hope, as they say, is powerful medicine.