New epilepsy treatment: Using lasers to stop seizures


When Jessie Fernandez was little, she woke up scared every morning.

"I was getting up every day thinking what if I have a seizure today?" said Fernandez.

She had her first epileptic seizure when she was 10. After that, she would have one, two, up to five seizures a day.

"In our class they don't have regular desks or chairs; they have stools. So I was just doing my work, and I fell back and hit my head, and they called the ambulance," said Fernandez.

The seizures were caused by a small brain tumor. When medication didn't help, her only option was an invasive brain surgery.

"Traditionally the way we perform those surgeries is actually remove the part of the brain that's causing the seizures," said Dr. John Ragheb, Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Miami Children's Hospital.

Fernandez had a different type of surgery called Visualase Laser Ablation. An MRI focuses on the target area, and a laser fiber is inserted into the skull. Heat from the laser then destroys the tissue causing the seizures and the tumor.

"We can accurately target just the tissue we want to destroy and protect the surrounding normal areas," said Dr. Ragheb.

Today, Fernandez doesn't worry about seizures. She's focused on her future and hopes to become a neurologist one day.

Fernandez is still seizure-free. Recovery from the procedure is quick, and most patients go home the next day, compared to a week in the hospital with traditional brain surgery.

The technique has been used on about 300 patients in the United States with many types of epilepsy, and experts say the results, so far, seem comparable to traditional surgery.

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