03 Nov Understanding Epilepsy: Through Patients’ Success Stories
It is the fourth most common neurological problem in the United States behind migraine, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Each year, 150,000 new cases arise. When viewed over a lifetime, the chances of developing this disease break down to one in 26 people.
What disease is this? Epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that can be characterized as experiencing two or more unprovoked seizures separated by at least 24 hours. A seizure is an event that is caused by a disruption of the electrical communication between neurons, resulting in abnormal movements and/or state of consciousness. The electrical miscommunication can come from the presence of a brain tumor, a vascular malformation, increased pressure in the brain, abnormal brain tissue or an unknown cause.
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder of the brain that affects people in every country all over the world. Over 65 million people worldwide have the disease – approximately 3 million are from the United States. While it is characterized by recurring seizure events, the type of seizure can vary based on duration, severity and frequency. They can fluctuate from brief lapses in attention or muscle jerks to severe and prolonged convulsions lasting minutes at a time. Seizure frequency can range from less than one a year to many events in a single day.
Understanding Epilepsy Seizures
Here at ANA, we understand the effect epilepsy can have on the patient. Living with epilepsy has many challenges and we will discuss some of our methods in combatting the disorder to improve quality of life.
Because we know no one suffers alone, we also want to discuss the impact epilepsy can have on the family and share some of our success stories to provide hope.
Treatments and Procedures
At ANA, we pride ourselves on patient care, offering personalized treatment plans for the individual. We work with the patient and the family to see which course of action works best. To that regard, we offer several treatments and procedures to help control the symptoms of epilepsy and limit the severity and frequency of seizures.
There are two non-surgical methods traditionally used in the treatment of epilepsy: medication and diet. If these treatments prove ineffective, ANA offers the following procedures:
- Lobectomy and cortical resection. This is the most common form of epilepsy surgery. Seizures in the temporal, parietal, frontal or occipital lobes may be treated surgically if the seizure-producing area can be safely removed without damaging vital functions
- Corpus callosotomy. Corpus callosotomy is the sectioning or separating of the corpus callosum, a nerve bridge which connects the two halves of the brain and integrates its functions
- Multiple subpial transection operation. This operation seeks to control seizures by cutting nerve pathways
Epilepsy Success Stories
ANA is a renowned neurosurgical practice specializing in epilepsy treatment for children and adults. With over 60 years of experience, ANA understands the significance of this disease and the challenges it presents physically and psychologically.
Dr. Arno Fried, who has performed over 500 epilepsy surgeries, leads the surgical team. Although there are many epilepsy success stories to be told, there are two that stick out in our minds, Stephanie and Victoria.
Stephanie Conklin had spent much of her child, adolescent and adult life suffering from epileptic seizures. Her seizures began at age seven when Stephanie was struck by a car and suffered a head injury. By age nine, Stephanie had complained of loss of speech and hearing, although it was not until 10 when she suffered a grand mal seizure.
That was the turning point when her doctors “put two and two together,” as she says of her subsequent diagnosis. But the difficult road for Conklin did not end there. In fact, her seizures and learning difficulties lasted until the age of 27 when Dr. Fried performed her surgery.
Conklin underwent a brain mapping procedure, which consists of placing small electrical contacts, or electrodes, over the surface of the brain. Once these electrodes are in place, the scalp is closed. The electrodes record the patient’s seizures and help the surgeon identify the areas from which they emanate.
Dr. Fried and his team found that the seizures were originating from the left temporal lobe, an area of which he was able to then remove in a subsequent surgical procedure. Since the surgery, Conklin has been seizure free for over five years. Today, she is a healthy 39-year-old certified EEG technician with two children, ages 10 and 17.
You can read more in our article Living With Epilepsy: A Path to a Normal Life.
December 15, 2015 should be circled on Victoria Vega’s calendar. It marks the day she’ll be seizure free for nine years. She suffered her last seizure 10 days before her surgery. After the surgery, Victoria was a typical teen who enjoys cheerleading, horseback riding and playing lacrosse.
Although the end result was very positive, Victoria’s mother, Laura, explains how hard it was to think of her daughter getting brain surgery. “The first feeling is terror,” she says. But the doctors at ANA gave her confidence. “We’re going to treat her as if she were our own daughter,” she was assured. The bedside manner, standard of care and surgical outcome all made Laura incredibly grateful. Of ANA, she gushes, “From the bottom of my heart, you can go to them and find what you need.”
For Stephanie Conklin, Victoria Vega and their families, epilepsy is now a distant memory. But it is at the forefront of our minds here at ANA. We strive for success, using innovative techniques, personalized care and extensive experience to combat epilepsy and its negative effects on the patient and family.
If you or a family member suffers from epilepsy and needs further information or a consultation, please contact us today. We have five locations in New Jersey, which also serve New York districts.