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Deep Brain Simulation for Epilepsy

What is Deep Brain Simulation for Epilepsy?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved deep brain stimulation as a ground-breaking treatment for epilepsy in 2018. Other neurological conditions, including dystonia and Parkinson’s disease, can also be treated with the surgically implanted device.

The device functions similar to a pacemaker by sending mild electrical signals to specific areas of the brain where seizure activity occurs. The signals reduce seizures by reorganizing the brain’s electrical activity. The procedure is performed by epilepsy specialists, usually in an outpatient setting. Patients who undergo the procedure usually do not limit other future treatments as they become available.

How Does Deep Brain Simulation Work?

Our surgeon will implant thin wire leads with electrodes to the thalamus, a small brain structure involved in localized seizure. A wire will run under the skin to a battery-operated pulse generator implanted near the collarbone that can deliver chronic stimulation to the targeted area of the brain. The stimulation can reduce or block the impulses that cause seizures. When the procedure is successful, patients can experience a higher quality of life, often with fewer medications.

Who is a Candidate for Deep Brain Simulation?

Adults who suffer from focal seizures that can’t be controlled with medications or other types of drug-resistant seizures might be good candidates for deep brain stimulation. Prior to implantation, a series of evaluations and diagnostic tests will be conducted to help determine if the device can help. The process may involve cognitive neuropsychology tests and imaging tests, including an EEG or MRI, to determine the best device placement and programming for the patient.

What to Expect During Surgery

The patient will be put under anesthesia for the surgery, which takes about four hours using state-of-the-art technology. A highly trained UTHealth Houston neurosurgeon will implant the electrodes through small holes in the skull and connect them through wires that run under the skin to the stimulator device. A patient can use a handheld controller to turn the device controlling the deep brain stimulation on and off. The device will be turned on about a month after the procedure. Programming can be adjusted until symptoms are best controlled.

What you can expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

UTHealth Neurosciences brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. Your team will share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes. You will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

We first investigate nonsurgical treatment options, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Contact Us

At UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.