What makes epilepsy such a dreaded disease is the suddenness and unpredictability of seizures. That could be all set to change,thanks to path breaking work by Australian researchers. In an article in The Lancet Neurology they have reported for the first time the success of a small device they have developed that,when implanted in the brain,can accurately predict the onset of seizures in adults,including those with an intractable form of the disease 30-40 per cent of the total epilepsy cases worldwide.
The study is small,what is called a proof-of-concept study rather than a full-scale trial,but has created a buzz in neurological circles for introducing the first ever contraption of its kind. Neurologists here describe it as a milestone in epilepsy management.
Epilepsy is associated with truant electrical activity in the brain due to reasons ranging from congenital to the presence of tapeworm. It remains one of most intriguing diseases medically and a taboo with patients facing social ostracisation,especially if women.
Knowing when a seizure might happen could dramatically improve the quality of life and independence of people with epilepsy and potentially allow them to avoid dangerous situations such as driving or swimming,or to take drugs to stop seizures before they start,rather than continuously as at present, explained lead author Mark Cook from the University of Melbourne. The 15 people chosen for the study were aged between 20 and 62,experiencing two to 12 seizures a month that are not controlled by at least two anti-epileptic drugs.
This is a major milestone in epilepsy because we still do not have anything that can predict a seizure. By the time a patient realises that there is something happening he is already into an attack. This is the first time we are looking at seizure prediction,though larger trials would be required to validate the findings, said Dr P N Renjen,senior consultant neurologist Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.
The technology,developed by a company called NeuroVista,detects abnormal electrical activity in the brain that precedes a seizure. Electrodes implanted between the skull and brain surface constantly monitor electrical activity. Dr P K Sethi,consultant neurologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital,said the device,apart from being the first seizure predictor ever,also holds the promise of being developed into a treatment of sorts in the future.