If you have had two or more seizures, you could have epilepsy – and you need care and treatment you can trust. The Tulane Neuroscience Center, with a dedicated epilepsy monitoring unit and the latest proven neurologic and neurosurgical treatment options, can help you take control of your condition so you can live your life.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a disorder that causes seizures when clusters of nerve cells send out the wrong signals. People with epilepsy who are having an attack may act and feel strangely, have muscle spasms and even become unconscious.
Sometimes epilepsy happens because of a disease or brain injury, or because part of the brain didn’t develop properly. In many cases, no cause can be found.
Having epilepsy affects many dimensions of everyday life, especially due to the risks associated with a seizure. You could fall or bump into something or have a seizure while driving, swimming, cooking or doing anything that requires attention or physical coordination. Epilepsy can also interfere with family life, work or reaching your goals, especially if seizures happen frequently.
What are the Symptoms of Epilepsy?
A single seizure does not mean you have epilepsy. Fever, head injury, diabetes and other conditions can also cause seizures. If you have two or more seizures, you might have epilepsy.
There are different types of seizures, with different symptoms. Not all seizures are as obvious as others. A person who is having a seizure might just act confused and stare into space. Some people feel extreme fear, anxiety or déjà vu (the feeling that something has been experienced before). Others might have jerking movements all over their body that they can’t control, and might even pass out.
Our team can help you understand what is happening when you have a seizure, and we can help you take steps to keep yourself and others safe while we work to get your epilepsy under control.
How is Epilepsy Diagnosed and Treated?
If you come to the Tulane Neuroscience Center to find out if you have epilepsy, our team might take blood samples or samples of your spinal fluid. You will probably have some kind of scan, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), so your doctors can see different areas of the brain. A test called an electroencephalogram (EEG) might be used to measure your brain’s electrical activity.
In some cases, epilepsy can be hard to confirm or manage. If that happens, you might stay in our dedicated epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU), where you’ll be monitored and connected to EEG equipment 24 hours a day. The information gathered in our EMU will help us create a treatment plan just for you, based on your needs and preferences.
If you are diagnosed with epilepsy, we will help you find the safest and best way to prevent seizures. Some people can manage their epilepsy with medication. Others might need more advanced treatment or functional neurosurgical options, such as vagus nerve stimulation, resective surgery or the NeuroPace RNS® system.
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)
VNS can prevent seizures by sending regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve carries signals that control many involuntary functions in your body. In VNS, electrical pulses are delivered by a small device that is similar to a pacemaker. The devise is implanted under your skin on the chest wall, and a wire connects it to a vagus nerve in your neck. The surgery is minor, and you can usually go home the same day.
NeuroPace RNS® system
The RNS (responsive neurostimulation) system features a tiny device, implanted under your scalp, that can prevent seizures when they are about to happen. This advanced technology allows our specialists to program the device to sense when you are about to have a seizure. The device then gently stimulates the area of your brain where your seizures tend to start. It also collects information that can help our team better understand your seizures and find ways to prevent them.
Resective surgery, also known as craniotomy, removes the part of your brain that is causing your seizures, so you can live as seizure-free as possible. Our neurosurgeons are highly skilled in these procedures and have helped thousands of people. In a lesionectomy, only the lesion—the damaged or abnormally functioning section—is removed. In a temporal lobectomy, part of the temporal lobe—on either side of the brain above the ear—is removed, without damaging the part that controls movement, sensation, memory or speaking.
Intracranial electroencephalography (iEEG), is a type of electrophysiological monitoring that uses electrodes placed directly on the exposed surface of the brain to record electrical activity. This procedure can help physicians better determine what part of the brain is causing epileptic seizures.