Epilepsy is chronic complex neurological disorder (disorder affecting the nervous system) that is characterized by abnormal electrical brain activity that causes seizures. Partial seizures occur when only one part of the brain is affected, while a generalized seizure involves both sides of the brain.
Causes and Symptoms of Epilepsy
Not all epilepsy disorders have a known cause. Some causes of epilepsy have been identified:
traumatic injury to the brain such as a vehicular accident
cerebral injury from another condition such as a stroke or tumor
inflammations or infections of the brain
diseases including Alzheimer’s or meningitis
abnormal developmental growth of the foetal brain that can be caused by a variety of factors including insufficient nutrition, lack of oxygen, drug-use of mother and infections
genetics may also seem have a role in some cases
Seizure symptoms vary according to the type of epilepsy and can be seemingly mild to life-threatening:
“blanking out” or a staring spell related to an absence seizure (where the person seems to be daydreaming or “absent”)
loss of muscle tone leading to a nodding head, sagging eyelids or falling to the ground, also known as a drop attack. This type of seizure is called an atonic seizure, a (not) tonic (muscle tone).
uncontrollable, rhythmic movement of arms or legs, often called a clonic seizure
quick jerking movements that can be misinterpreted as tremors or clumsiness, a symptom of a myoclonic seizure
stiffening of muscles sometimes called a tonic seizure
Simple partial seizure symptoms usually occur while the person is awake and usually only lasts a minute or two:
sensory distortion, the person may smell, taste, feel or see (hallucinate) things that aren’t there
muscle changes such as muscle weakness, stiffening or jerking
emotional changes such as abruptly feeling happy or depressed for no reason
Secondarily generalized seizures start in one part of the brain and then (secondarily) spread (generalized) to the rest of the brain. Symptoms can include:
a tonic seizure (stiffening of muscles)
loss of consciousness
a clonic phase (rhythmic jerking of arms and legs)
bowel or bladder release sometimes can occur
a slow return to consciousness followed by confusion or disorientation
How Is an Epilepsy Diagnosis Performed?
At Neurological Surgery, P.C. (NSPC), we use state-of-the-art tools to diagnosis and treat epilepsy. Along with a complete medical history, our highly-trained epileptologists and neurological specialists use brain-imaging techniques such as MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) along with encephalograms (EEGs) to determine where your epilepsy originates in your brain. (An accurate epilepsy diagnosis is key to effective treatment results.)
Epilepsy can often be managed with a combination of lifestyle modifications and/or other non-surgical treatments such as anti-seizure medications:
Dietary changes such as a ketogenic diet—a high fat, high protein and low carbohydrate diet to stimulate more ketones in the body, which are thought to help control seizures
Avoiding epilepsy triggers, some seizures can be brought on by specific triggers such as stress, bright lights or drug use. Avoiding your specific trigger can minimize seizures or allow you to prepare for them.
But when these more conservative treatments fail, many patients have remarkable results and see immediate improvement in their symptoms with vagal nerve stimulation or brain surgery.
Advanced Treatments for Epilepsy at NSPC
As New York region’s leading neurosurgical practice, we have a multi-disciplinary team of neurologists, epileptologists, neuro-anesthesiologists and neuro-radiologists, neuropsychologists to help epilepsy patients find the best treatment plan.
Our expert neurosurgeons offer a number cutting-edge surgical treatments for uncontrollable epilepsy: Vagal Nerve Stimulation—This form of neuromodulation regulates the brain’s electrical activity via an electrode place on the vagus nerve. This is a palliative treatment that is less invasive compared to open brain surgery. Neurostimulation—Dr. Brian Snyder of NSPC was the first neurosurgeon on Long Island to implant the revolutionary FDA-approved NeuroPace RNS® System. The NeuroPace stimulator delivers brief pulses to help thwart abnormal electrical impulses that create seizures. Corpus Callosotomy—Some types of intractable or unmanageable epilepsy can be treated with a corpus callosotomy. A surgical procedure to stop the spread of an abnormal electrical charge from traveling from one cerebral hemisphere to the other. Temporal Lobectomy—Also called an amygdalohippocampectomy, the surgical procedure removes a portion of the temporal lobe where some seizures originate. Extratemporal Cortical Resection—This procedure surgically removes (resects) a part of the brain—other than the temporal lobe—to halt seizures.
With offices throughout Long Island and the NY metro area, NSPC is one of the northeast’s largest private practices of leading neurosurgeons and allied specialists focused on world-class treatments for complex brain conditions such as epilepsy.