Tip Sheet for Epilepsy Awareness Month
Seizure-induced brain damage in epileptic patients:
A new study published in Neurology by Dr. Neda Bernasconi and colleagues, reveals that patients with medication-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), have progressive atrophy, or loss of cells, in some regions of the brain. This cortical atrophy is distinct from normal aging and likely represents seizure-induced damage. Whether recurrent epileptic seizures induce brain damage has been debated and until now, has only been evaluated in a few studies involving patients with seizures well controlled by medication. Dr. Bernasconi and colleagues used sophisticated MRI techniques to measure cortical thickness on multiple consecutive scans from the same individual. Their findings of the cumulative nature of atrophy underlies the importance of earlier surgical treatment in this group of patients.
Stress and the onset of adult epilepsy:
A new study published in the March issue of journal Epileptic Disorders conducted by Sheila Koutsogiannopoulos and colleagues, explores factors such as life stressors that may influence the timing of the onset of epilepsy in adults. All patients in the study reported significant stressful life events in the 12 months prior to their first seizure. Recognizing precursors to a first seizure may not only improve understanding of the onset of the epilepsy but, may also give patients possible control over subsequent attacks. Recent studies have indicated that patients are more likely to succeed at managing their seizures if they recognize their own seizure triggers. Early awareness can facilitate avoidance of high-risk situations and the use of non-pharmacological interventions, such as relaxation and stress management techniques.
Facts about Epilepsy:
- Epilepsy is a physical condition characterized by sudden, brief changes in how the brain works. It is a symptom of a neurological disorder - a disorder that affects the brain and shows itself in the form of seizures
- Approximately 1-2% of the Canadian population has epilepsy. This includes people who take anticonvulsant drugs or who have had a seizure within the past 5 years.
- Each day in Canada, an average of 42 people learn that they have epilepsy.
- A seizure may appear as a brief stare, an unusual movement of the body, a change in awareness, or a convulsion. A seizure may last a few seconds or a few minutes.
- Epilepsy may result from a variety of causes. These include:
- Malformations of brain development
- Head injury that causes scarring to the brain tissue
- High fever and prolonged convulsions during early childhood
- Trauma at birth
- The result of a stroke or tumor
- In almost one third of patients, seizures cannot be controlled despite the best possible medications.
- In these patients, surgical resection of the brain area causing seizures is presently the only effective treatment in controlling seizures and improving quality of life.
MNI and Epilepsy:
· The Montreal Neurological Institute (The Neuro) has been at the forefront of epilepsy treatment and research for three quarters of a century.
· Dr. Wilder Penfield and his team developed the “Montreal Procedure,” a surgical approach that explores the brains of epilepsy patients while they are awake and under local anesthetic in order to find the precise tissue causing the seizures and to minimize the risks of surgery.
· Today, scientists at The Neuro study the genetic factors of epilepsy and epileptic syndromes, use EEG to monitor the electrical manifestations of epileptic seizures, and also treat the psychiatric aspects of epilepsy.
· Brain imaging techniques developed at The Neuro have greatly contributed to the understanding of causes and consequences of epilepsy. Importantly, they have facilitated significantly epilepsy surgery by unveiling brain lesions that are not seen by standard radiological methods.
· The Neuro’s Epilepsy Clinic sees about 1500 patients per year and provides both in-patient and out-patient evaluation and treatments.
· The Neuro’s Epilepsy Program has a multi-disciplinary team that includes epileptologists, neurosurgeons, nurses, neuropsychologists, neuropsychiatrists, social workers, EEG technologists, nurse clinicians and case managers.
· The Epilepsy team works closely with our community partner Epilepsy Montreal Metropolitain in providing monthly support group meetings at The Neuro.