Deep brain stimulation (DBS) now a treatment for epilepsy

Norton Healthcare performs first DBS for epilepsy in Louisville

There’s a new treatment option for patients in Louisville with medically-refractory epilepsy.

Louisville’s first patient to get deep brain stimulation for epilepsy — a patient treated at Norton Neuroscience Institute — now has an implanted stimulator to alter pathways in the brain involved in seizures.

The stimulator was implanted recently at Norton Brownsboro Hospital. The device has wires implanted in the brain, specifically targeting a small structure deep in the center of the brain called the anterior nucleus of the thalamus. These wire are then connected to a sort of “pacemaker” for the brain, placed near the collarbone. The device is programmed by an epilepsy neurologist to deliver gentle stimulation, which can stop brain signals that cause seizures.

Abigail Rao, M.D., a functional neurosurgeon with Norton Neuroscience Institute; Rebekah J. Woods, D.O., an epilepsy neurologist with Norton Neurology Services, and Bradley S. Folley, Ph.D., neuropsychologist with Norton Neuroscience Institute, treated the first local patient earlier this summer.

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In addition to DBS, Norton Neuroscience Institute’s comprehensive epilepsy Center offers other advanced epilepsy treatments.

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“DBS can be an important surgical treatment option for patients who suffer from epilepsy,” Dr. Rao said. “We’re very excited to offer this new type of therapy.”

Related: Abigail Rao, M.D., brings new techniques and uses for deep brain stimulation

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved DBS therapy as a treatment for reducing the frequency of partial-onset seizures in adults. The therapy, which is was studied in clinical trials with at least 7 years of follow-up, was launched in the United States in February 2019. Norton Neuroscience Institute is currently among only a handful of hospitals around the country to offer the treatment.

“We are constantly looking to incorporate the most state-of-the-art treatments for our patients,” Dr. Woods said. “New therapies, like DBS, can make a significant impact.”

According to the American Epilepsy Society, as many as 3 million Americans have epilepsy. For nearly a third of those patients, medications do not provide adequate seizure control or cause negative side effects.

In addition to treating medically refractory epilepsy, DBS therapy is currently approved to treat other neurological conditions, including essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease.


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