Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which individuals experience recurring seizures. A seizure is a single occurrence of a sudden change in movement, behavior, consciousness or sensation caused by a malfunction or "misfiring" of the electrical system in the brain. The outward signs of a seizure may include convulsions, brief stares, muscle spasms, odd sensations or altered consciousness, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of America.
Physicans on the medical staff at Texas Health Fort Worth continue to advance the treatment of epilepsy by participating in the latest drug trials and utilizing leading-edge surgical techniques. The ultimate goal is a high quality of life for individuals and families affected by this condition.
Seizures that only occur once may be caused by a traumatic brain injury, high fever, a tumor, infection or lack of oxygen. Epileptic seizures usually occur without any known cause, but factors such as lack of sleep and stress may increase the occurrence of the seizures. Symptoms include:
- Sudden falls for no reason
- Lack of response to noise or to spoken words for brief periods
- Dazed and confused behavior
- Unusual sleepiness and irritability when wakened in the morning
- Head nodding
- Rapid blinking and staring
- Frequent complaints from a child that things look, sound, taste, smell or feel "funny;" episodes of fear that have no observable cause
- Clusters of jack-knife movements with both arms by babies lying on their backs
- Sudden stomach pain followed by confusion and sleepiness
- A blank stare followed by chewing, picking at clothes, random movement and unresponsiveness to surroundings
- Sudden muscle jerks
The Epilepsy Monitoring Unit
Texas Health Fort Worth features a Level 2 Epilepsy Monitoring unit (EMU) with access to advanced technology. The purpose of the unit is to help evaluate and treat patients with complex and difficult-to-control seizures.
The epilepsy team is made up of medical staff neurologists specializing in epilepsy (epileptologists), neurologist, neurosurgeons, and hospital staff including neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, nuclear radiologists, neuroradiologists, pharmacologists, electroneurodiagnostic technologists, epilepsy nurses, social workers and volunteers.
Patients are admitted to EMU for simultaneous audio/video EEG recordings. Under careful watch of the medical staff physican, nurses and technologists, seizures are recorded and monitored.
The epilepsy program's multi-specialty team reviews monitoring results and works with the referring physican to develop an individualized care plan. Often this approach leads to recommendations for improved care options. In many cases, patients' treatment options are enahanced or improved, leading to better seizure control.
As with many neurological movement disorders, an individual's medical history and a complete physical and neurological examination are important to the accurate diagnosis of epilepsy. When seeing a doctor for seizure treatment, it is important to tell the physician if the seizure was an isolated event that may have been triggered by fever or infection, or whether the problem is a recurring one. Blood tests, EEG tests, MRI scans and CT scans may also be used by physicians to correctly diagnose epilepsy.
For many people, epilepsy can be controlled, and many of those with the disorder live a normal life and perform normal activities. Treatments for epilepsy include drug therapy, surgery or a special diet. A physician may begin treatment by prescribing the regular use of seizure-preventing medications. Surgery may be an option for individuals who do not respond to medication or who have an underlying condition such as a tumor that can be surgically removed. Follow this link for more information about the Epilepsy Program. Image guided neurosurgery and radiosurgery are both available.
Vagus nerve stimulation is a therapy used to prevent seizures by sending small electrical pulses to the brain through the large nerve in the neck called the vagus nerve. A special, physician-prescribed and monitored diet called the ketogenic diet may also be successful in treating children and some adults with epilepsy. For more information on vagus nerve stimulation or the ketogenic diet, visit the Epilepsy Foundation of America website.
For more information and scheduling contact the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at 817-250-3070.