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Treatment for Epilepsy

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Medical and Surgical Treatment for Epilepsy at NewYork-Presbyterian

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital's Comprehensive Epilepsy Centers at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center offer both medical and surgical treatments for patients with epileptic seizure disorders.

Medical Treatment for Epilepsy

Medication to prevent epileptic seizures is the most common treatment approach for the disease. Doctors can choose from a number of different anti-seizure medications, depending on the patient's type of epilepsy.

Medication can control seizures in more than half of epileptic patients for substantial periods, and it can significantly reduce the number of seizures in another thirty percent.

About a third of epilepsy patients do not respond to medications.

If epileptic seizures are not controlled after treatment with several different agents, doctors may consider medications available through clinical trials or surgical treatment.

Surgical Treatment for Epilepsy

Neurosurgeons use one of several surgical procedures to treat epilepsy.

Most patients experience a great reduction in seizure frequency and severity after surgery. Patients with certain types of epilepsy have a greater than 70 percent chance of complete freedom from seizures following surgery.

  • Multiple subpial transaction for epilepsy: If the source of the epileptic seizures is in an area of the brain that is critical to speech or movement, surgeons may use an approach called multiple subpial transection.
  • Instead of removing brain tissue, surgeons interrupt nerve fibers on the surface of the brain that carry the impulses responsible for epileptic symptoms.

  • Resective surgery for epilepsy: This type of brain surgery removes the specific area of the brain that is generating the seizures.
  • A resective procedure called temporal lobectomy, in which surgeons remove a portion of the temporal lobe (the most common source of epileptic seizures), is the brain surgery most often performed for epilepsy.

  • Vagal nerve stimulation for epilepsy: Neurologists at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Centers at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital are among the most active and experienced with VNS treatment in our region.
  • Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) is a treatment in which doctors place a small pacemaker under the skin near the vagal nerve in the side of the neck.

    Placement of the device does not involve surgery on the brain.

    This device regulates electrical activity in the brain, and in many patients with poorly controlled epileptic seizures, it can reduce their frequency and severity.

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