Advancing Seizure Care
There is a common misperception that people with epilepsy have to live with its symptoms and a constant risk of seizures. However, more than half of patients with new onset of seizures never have a seizure again, as they are easily controlled with medications.
We often find that when people’s seizures persist for a year or more, both patients and their doctors may mistakenly believe that nothing else can be done and they must just live with the seizures.
Fortunately, that is not true. The majority of patients with medication-resistant seizures who are referred to a comprehensive epilepsy center experience a 180 degree change in their seizure control and management.
There Is Hope
The three most common reasons patients continue to have seizures are avoidable. We find that many patients who come to us have:
- Been misdiagnosed
- Been given the wrong medication
- Not been recommended for surgery, although they are good candidates for a surgical cure or significant improvement
We know that advancing seizure care is not only about cutting edge techniques, it is about providing patients access to specialty care and collaborating with our patient’s neurologists when their first one or two medications did not work. So that’s what we do at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Most patients who have been treated for seizures for years experience a fundamental change and improvement in their seizure management when we work together with their physicians.
- Twenty-five percent of patients thought to have epileptic seizures actually have non-epileptic events, so they don’t need to be on anti-epileptic medications and can be offered a more effective treatment for their condition
- We may detect a form of epilepsy which responds particularly well to certain medications and gets worse with others; this happens with 10 to 20 percent of the patients we see
- Twenty-five percent of patients with persistent seizures that start focally in the brain are potential surgical candidates; surgery will stop their seizures 60-70 percent of the time, which is much higher than the chance to become seizure free with additional medication adjustments
Epilepsy Specialists Can Help
In the past, most patients with epilepsy suffered with the disease and the often debilitating symptoms for 15 to 20 years before seeking treatment from an epilepsy specialist. Stephan U. Schuele, MD, Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, would like to change that.
Dr. Schuele says he would like to see every person with seizures be evaluated by an epilepsy specialist if the events persist for more than a year after diagnosis. “Comprehensive epilepsy centers are no longer the last resort for patients,” says Dr. Schuele. “In fact, epilepsy centers should be on the forefront to assist each patient’s physician with making the correct diagnosis and selecting the right medical or surgical treatment option for patients who still have seizures after a year of unsuccessful initial treatment.”
“Seizure care,” says Dr. Schuele, “has become highly specialized, and our experts are now able to improve outcomes and fundamentally change the quality of life and seizure outcome in 80 to 90 percent of patients we see.”
Our Specialists Working for You
At the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, our epileptologists provide state-of-the-art care together with a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including our functional neurosurgeon, Joshua Rosenow, MD, neuroradiologists, nuclear medicine physicians, neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, neuropathologists and neuro-oncologists. In addition, we provide social work support and specialized nursing care.
There are a number of things that makes our treatment successful:
- We take a lot of time to listen to our patients in order to get an accurate account of their seizures, witness reports of the events, and a thorough medical history
- We have physicians with specialty training in performing and interpreting EEG and brain imaging studies that often find the exact spot where seizures are coming from even if the initial outside studies have been reported normal
- We have a video EEG monitoring unit with 24 hour nursing and EEG technologist supervision, which allows us to record seizures in a safe environment, make a an accurate diagnosis and offer a more targeted treatment
Comprehensive Care in One Convenient Location
The Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is designated a Level 4 Referral center by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. This means that our epilepsy monitoring center provides the highest possible level of diagnostic, medical and surgical treatment options.
We provide services for patients with seizures in one location. Our center includes:
An Outpatient Clinic
The epilepsy specialists are:
Our specialized testing equipment includes:
- 3 T MRI with Epilepsy Protocol
- Electroencephalography (EEG)
- Ambulatory EEG (1-3 days at home)
- Functional MRI
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Our inpatient assessment includes:
- Diagnostic Video EEG Monitoring
- Presurgical Evaluation
- Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography during seizures (Ictal SPECT)
Our Comprehensive Epilepsy Center Outpatient Clinic is located at:
675 N. St. Clair Street, Suite 20-100
Chicago, Illinois 60611
If you have epilepsy and would like to see a specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, please contact the Center at 312-926-1673. You can also call the Physician Referral Department at 1-877-926-4664 or request a first time appointment online.
Tune in to Health
Listen to Elizabeth Gerard, MD, and Catherine Stika, MD discuss why family planning is particularly important to female epilepsy patients.