Ending Epileptic Seizures

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 General News
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MILWAUKEE, Jan. 5 One in ten people will suffer from aseizure in their life and many of those will be diagnosed with epilepsy.Medication will help approximately two-thirds of the people with epilepsy, butmany continue to have seizures, even though there are other alternatives.

"Epilepsy ended my teaching career," says Mary Catanzaro a former Englishlecturer at Marquette University. "I would have seizures in front of mystudents and never know that they had happened."

Catanzaro suffered from complex partial seizures. These seizures, whilenot as recognizable as the "shaking" seizures of the movies, are common. InCatanzaro's case one of these episodes left her with third-degree burns aftershe placed her hand on a hot frying pan.

"For 20 years I tried different pharmaceuticals," says Catanzaro. "When anew drug came out, my doctor was handing me a prescription, but it neverworked."

The average patient waits 20 years before taking the next step and hassurgery. Temporal lobectomies cure many epilepsy cases but factors limitpatients from taking advantage of this option.

"Many people are scared by brain surgery, and that is understandable, butit keeps them from treatment for far too long," says Dr. George Morris, anepileptologist at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee. "Anotherdifficulty is that only specialized neurosurgeons perform this procedure.Many patients rely on their physician to refer them to the best course ofaction, and they never learn about the successes we are having with temporallobectomies."

Approximately one-third of the affected population will not respond topharmaceutical treatments for epilepsy, according to Dr. Morris. Those samepeople do have another option. Surgically we can remove a small section oftheir temporal lobe and stop or minimize their seizures. Better than four outof every five surgical patients will see either significant success or seetheir epilepsy cured.

In December, the Journal of the American Medical Association published astudy that recommends that surgery should be considered more quickly to treatpatients with epilepsy. The conclusion of the JAMA study concludes that theaverage patient will experience substantial gains in life expectancy andquality of life from these surgeries.

According to Dr. Morris a temporal lobectomy has been shown to be as safeas any other general surgery. Additionally, patients' IQ testing aftersurgery has shown no changes and most return to work within six weeks.

Today Catanzaro works from home and contributes to many scholarly books.

"It took me about 5 years to realize that I was cured," says Catanzaro."I was always waiting for the next seizure, but now the waiting and the fearare over."

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider anda national leader in efforts to improve the quality of care. Aurora providescare at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.http://www.aurora.org

SOURCE Aurora Health Care

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