NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There’s new help for the one million Americans with uncontrollable epilepsy.
CBS2’s Max Gomez reports that it’s a kind of implanted deep brain stimulator.
There are an estimated three million people in the U.S. with epilepsy. They suffer repeated, unprovoked seizures.
About two-thirds of them can control the symptoms with medication, but for a million of them, either the meds don’t work or have intolerable side effects.
Jordan Gill is one of those people with uncontrolled epilepsy. He’s been having at least weekly seizures for more than half of his 22 years.
“I just freeze up. I can’t control my body. I tell it to move, but it just doesn’t,” Gill said.
Jordan’s mother says sometimes his seizures are quite violent, but the real hurt comes from knowing what they’re doing to her son.
“For me it’s painful, knowing how much potential my son has,” Denise Rutherford-Gill said.
For patients like Jordan, where medications failed, surgery can be an option – removing the abnormal bit of brain that starts a seizure.
If that area serves vital brain functions or seizures are coming from multiple brain areas however, that surgery is impossible. Now, there’s a new option.
“Neurostimulation… Instead of removing brain we can modulate the brain in a way that it stops producing seizures over and over again,” Dr. Ashesh Mehta from North Shore University Hospital explained.
It’s called DBS, short for Deep Brain Stimulation. It involves placing a tiny pair of electrodes into an area of the brain that seems to serve as a kind of switchboard for abnormal brain waves to spread throughout the brain and can become a full blown seizure.
In a procedure three weeks ago, Jordan became the first patient in New York to get the recently approved Activa DBS system implanted.
Dr. Mehta, the director of epilepsy surgery at Northwell Health, turned on Jordan’s battery-operated stimulator.
The young patient is not really supposed to feel anything. The stimulator acts to block the spread of abnormal brain waves, hopefully giving him what he yearns for most.
“I want the seizures to go away,” Jordan said.
It won’t be known at this time if the DBS is actually working until Jordan’s seizures become less frequent and less intense.
Dr. Mehta said that in clinical trials, the Activa system reduced seizures by as much as 75 percent, which would allow Jordan to pursue his dream of becoming a painter or sculptor.