About Epilepsy

Nearly three million Americans suffer from epilepsy, a neurological condition characterized by seizures. Seizures are caused by electrical energy in the brain that disrupts normal function, and can range from a brief disruption of senses to unconsciousness and convulsions. Although there are some known causes for epilepsy including brain trauma, tumors, strokes and genetics; in 7 out of 10 cases, no clear cause can be found. Epilepsy affects all ages, but the incidence is highest in the very young and elderly patients. It is estimated that 200,000 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed each year. There is no cure for epilepsy.

While current therapies exist to control symptoms, for many patients, there is no ideal treatment due to limited efficacy and undesirable side effects.

Current Therapies

Epilepsy therapies range from drug treatments and ketogenic diets to brain surgery and implanted device therapy. Anti-epileptic drugs are one of the more effective therapies, with about 50% of patients being able to control their seizures. However, in many cases, these drugs can cause severe side effects, most notably sedation, dramatically affecting quality of life for these patients. It is estimated that 20% of patients are refractory to anti-epileptic drugs, meaning these treatments do not have any effect in controlling seizures. For these refractory patients, other options must be pursued.

Alternative treatments include Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) and Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) therapies. In the case of VNS, electrical energy is sent to the brain via the Vagus nerve. In the case of DBS where electrodes are used to stimulate the brain, studies are still being conducted, but early indicators suggest low efficacy rates. VNS therapy is approved for patients who are refractory to anti-seizure drugs, and DBS therapy is still undergoing clinical trials.