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Brain surgery for epilepsy underutilized
Date:4/23/2012

edicine, described it in detail in his writings some 2,500 years ago, and it is believed to have afflicted many famous people throughout history, including Julius Caesar.

UCSF is one of the world's leading institutions involved in epilepsy research, with one of the few medical centers that has top-ranking departments in relevant areas: neurology, biomedical imaging, and neurosurgery.

Paul Garcia, MD, director of the clinical epilepsy program and a study co-author, said that most patients referred to UCSF for surgical evaluation have had uncontrolled seizures for many years despite trying several medications. Research has shown that after the first two medicines fail, it is uncommon for patients to gain complete seizure control with medical treatment alone. Without control over their seizures, patients are at risk for physical injuries or even dying. Furthermore, the seizures often interfere with normal life activities such as driving, studying and working.

To see how widely this type of surgery has been used, Chang and neurosurgery resident Dario Englot, MD, PhD, accessed a national database of all of the surgeries across the United States for the last 20 yearsa timeline centered on the Canadian study. They found that there has been no increase in the 10 years, even as diagnoses of epilepsy have increased along with the number of hospitalizations for seizures.

Part of the problem is awareness, both among patients and care providers, Chang said. New anticonvulsant drugs appear on the market often enough to provide physicians with new drug combinations for their patients to try. Brain surgery can be more daunting than having to swallow fistfuls of pills, even though surgery is much more effective for many people. The problem though is that new medications are not very effective if previous ones already failed, according to Chang. Epilepsy surgery in the modern era has been repeatedly shown to be safe and effective.

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Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
jason.bardi@ucsf.edu
415-502-4608
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert  

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