What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a medical condition in which a person has reoccurring seizures, often with no identifiable cause.
In most cases, the origin of epilepsy remains unknown. Sometimes epilepsy runs in families indicating a possible hereditary factor. Epilepsy has also been linked as a possible result of alcoholism, Alzheimer's disease, brain tumor, stroke, head trauma or an abnormality of brain development (“focal cortical dysplasia”).
A person is usually diagnosed with epilepsy after having two or more seizures. In order to accurately diagnose the condition, an epileptologist (a neurologist with special training in treating epilepsy) will do a complete medical evaluation and then often recommend a variety of tests including:
What Happens During a Seizure?
Epilepsy causes a sudden spurt of electrical activity in the brain resulting in a seizure. The abnormal signals that the brain then sends to the entire nervous system cause unusual behaviors and sometimes convulsions or loss of consciousness.
Types of Seizures
While there are many types of seizures, epilepsy experts usually classify them into two broad categories: Partial or generalized. Partial seizures start in just one part of the brain and they can be simple, complex, or secondarily generalized. Generalized seizures affect the whole brain and can develop from a complex partial seizure. For more information on the different seizures and the symptoms, please visit the website for the epilepsy specialists at Beth Israel Medical Center.
Surgical Treatment for Epilepsy
Although many cases of epilepsy cannot be cured, we can help the patient manage their condition. For many, epilepsy is controlled by medication, but for many patients whose seizures cannot be eliminated by medication, surgical treatment offers a chance to eliminate seizures and greatly improve quality of life.
In order to be considered a candidate for surgery, a thorough pre-surgical screening is done to determine whether surgery can be done without compromising normal brain function.
For people with seizures caused by brain tumors, vascular malformations in the brain, or developmental brain abnormalities, surgery may be an option if these abnormalities can be found, mapped and identified through image tests.
Other people can be good surgical candidates, too, not because of obvious brain malformations, but because rigorous diagnostic tests have determined that their seizures are localized to a focused area of the brain and can be surgically treated with low risk of morbidity.
When appropriate and successful, such surgeries are, in effect, a cure for epilepsy. Dr. Robert R. Goodman has over 20 years of experience devoted to the surgical treatment of epilepsy.