A ray of hope in the treatment of refractory epilepsy

According to a recent study, deep brain stimulation (DBS) could be a promising therapy for refractory epilepsy. DBS is a surgical treatment that involves implanting a pacemaker into the brain.

Epilepsy is a neurological disease characterized by recurring seizures. They can lead to a temporary loss of consciousness, convulsions, confusion and difficulty perceiving sensations. The usual treatment is to take daily medication to prevent the seizures. Unfortunately, it is estimated that a third of patients do not get satisfactory control of their symptoms with the treatments currently available.

According to a recent study, deep brain stimulation (DBS) could be a promising therapy for refractory epilepsy. DBS is a surgical treatment that involves implanting a pacemaker into the brain. This medical device sends electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain. The clinical trial showed that epileptic seizures occurred less frequently with this technique.

The researchers implanted electrodes in the brains of 110 patients and then monitored the participants’ epileptic seizures. All of the patients suffered from regular seizures (nearly 20 per month on average) and had seen no notable improvement in their seizure frequency despite drug treatment. As part of this study, half the participants received electric brain stimulation and the other half did not (control group).

In the group of patients who received DBS, researchers noted a 41 percent reduction in seizures, compared to a 14.5 percent decline in seizures in the control group. After two years of follow-up, 54 percent of the patients experienced a reduction of 50 percent in the frequency of their epileptic seizures, and 14 patients experienced no seizures at all for a period of at least six months. No serious adverse effects (e.g. brain hemorrhage) were noted during the trial, but patients seemed more likely to report memory disturbances or depression.

While DBS is not likely to become a routine treatment for epilepsy, since it involves an invasive surgical procedure with its share of risk, it could be a very interesting option for certain epileptic individuals who do not respond to any medication. However, several years of research are still required in order to improve the surgical technique, the brain pacemaker itself, and the criteria for identifying the best candidates for making it accessible to patients.

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