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Epilepsy treatment uses laser to stop seizures

Epilepsy patients now have a new treatment option called laser thermal ablation, which uses lasers to stop seizures.
April 22, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Experts estimate that every year, 150, 000 Americans develop epilepsy. Many use medications to help manage seizures, but unfortunately, drugs aren't effective in every case. But now, patients have a new treatment option that uses lasers to stop the seizures.

For eight years, 30-year-old Nicole Dehn couldn't drive. In 2005, she had a seizure while driving and lost her license.

"I was very, very depressed. I mean, it's a huge let down," said Dehn.

Nicole had her first epileptic seizure when she was just six months old and they got progressively worse. When medication failed, her only option was an invasive brain surgery that usually takes months to recover from.

"You actually remove a piece of the skull temporarily, and then the surgeon has to go and physically remove or cut away the epileptic tissue," said Dr. Jerry Shih, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at the Mayo Clinic in Florida.

But Nicole opted for a different type of procedure called laser thermal ablation. A small hole is made in the back of the head and a laser probe is inserted into the skull. Using MRI guidance, heat from the laser then destroys the tissue causing the seizures.

"We're very excited. She's excited. Our patients have really all enjoyed having this option for them as a procedure," said Shih.

Eight months after her procedure, Dehn is driving again and has been seizure-free ever since.

"Having my license back now, everything has just totally changed - new doors, new opportunities," said Dehn.

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