More than two million adults in the U.S. have epilepsy; 150,000 more will develop the condition each year. Usually, medication can control seizures but about 30 percent of patients do not respond. Now, patients have a new treatment option that uses lasers to stop the seizures.
For eight years, 30-year-old Nicole Dehn couldn’t drive. In 2005—she had a seizure while driving and lost her license.
“I was very, very depressed. I mean it’s a huge let down,” Nicole told Ivanhoe.
Nicole had her first epileptic seizure when she was just six months old and they got progressively worse. When medication failed, her only option was an invasive brain surgery that usually takes months to recover from.
“You actually remove a piece of the skull temporarily and then the surgeon has to go and physically remove or cut away the epileptic tissue,” Jerry Shih, MD, Director, Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, Mayo Clinic, Florida, told Ivanhoe.
However, Nicole opted for a different type of procedure called laser thermal ablation. A small hole is made in the back of the head and a laser probe is inserted into the skull. Using MRI guidance, heat from the laser then destroys the tissue causing the seizures.
“We’re very excited, she is excited, our patients have really all enjoyed having this option for them as a procedure,” Dr. Shih said.
Eight months after her procedure, Nicole is back to driving, and has been seizure-free ever since.