WebMD Medical News
Laura J. Martin, MD
March 18, 2010 -- Deep brain stimulation may offer a new treatment option
for fighting epileptic seizures in those who don't respond well to other
A new study shows deep brain stimulation, which involves implanting tiny
electrodes in the brain that release electrical pulses, reduced the frequency
of partial seizures and secondarily generalized seizures -- partial seizures
that spread throughout the brain.
Overall, researchers say more than half of those treated experienced a
reduction in epileptic seizures of at least 50%.
Earlier this month, an FDA advisory panel recommended approval of deep brain
stimulation as an epilepsy treatment based on the results of this study.
Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder that causes recurrent seizures
that can cause temporary loss of consciousness, convulsions, or confusion.
Antiepileptic drugs are the standard treatment for controlling and reducing
epileptic seizures, but the drugs don't work effectively for up to a third of
people with epilepsy.
The study, published in Epilepsia, evaluated the safety and
effectiveness of electrical deep brain stimulation in 110 adults who had
epileptic seizures occurring at least six times per month and did not respond
to antiepileptic drug treatment.
In the first phase of the study, researchers implanted electrodes in all of
the participants, but only half received electronic stimulation for three
months. The results showed that those who received deep brain stimulation had a
40% reduction in epileptic seizures compared with a 15% reduction in the group
that did not receive electronic stimulation.
In addition, the seizures considered most severe by the participants were
all reduced among those receiving stimulation.
After the initial three-month phase, all of the participants received
electronic deep brain stimulation and were followed for about two years. After
about two years, 54% of participants had a reduction in the frequency of their
seizures of at least 50%.
Fourteen participants (13%) were seizure-free for at least six months of the
There were five deaths during the study, but none was believed to be device
related. The most commonly reported side effects were depression and memory
problems, which were usually extensions of previously existing problems
according to researchers.
"Electrical deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a promising therapy for
epilepsy," says researcher Robert Fisher, MD, PhD, director of the epilepsy
center at Stanford University, in a news release. "While our study did not
produce serious complications, DBS therapy is invasive and serious
complications can occur."
Fisher says additional study is needed to determine who are the best
candidates for deep brain stimulation and establish the optimal rates of
SOURCES:Fisher, R. Epilepsia, March 18, 2010, advance online edition.News release, Wiley-Blackwell.
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