Two-thirds of people with severe and otherwise untreatable epilepsy were completely cured of their frequent seizures after undergoing neurosurgery at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, according to a new study that examined 143 of these patients two years after their operations.
The new study not only shows the promise of this type of neurosurgery at treating severe epilepsy, it also highlights how research into brain imaging may help to further improve results for people who have such operations.
"Surgery can be a powerful way to stop this disorder in its tracks," said UCSF Neurosurgeon Edward Chang, who led study, which is published this week in the journal Annals of Neurology. "Many of these people were living 10, 15 or 20 years with very severe and dangerous seizures."
The success of the surgery, added Chang, was directly related to the accuracy with which the medical team could map the brain, identify the exact pieces of tissue responsible for an individual's seizures and ultimately remove them.
"We need to continue to focus on developing new methods to figure out and pinpoint where the seizures are coming from," said Chang.
Surgery for the Worst Cases
Epilepsy has been known as a disease since ancient times. Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, 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. About two million people in the United States suffer from the disease today, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization estimates that some 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, a name that means "seizures" in Greek.
While seizures are common to a number of other conditions, including head injuries, infections, exposure to toxins, sleep deprivation and stroke, people with epilepsy suffe
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University of California - San Francisco