Epilepsy is a serious neurological disorder that affects more than two million people in the U.S. and 50 million people worldwide. The disease, which varies in severity and can begin at any age, is characterized by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which causes seizures. Common symptoms of seizures may include involuntary repetitive non-productive movements or jerking movements, muscle rigidity, an appearance of daydreaming, brief loss of consciousness or a period of deep sleep after the seizure has ended.
Epilepsy can result from a brain injury before, during or after birth; head trauma; certain infectious diseases; or brain tumors. However, in over half of the cases the cause is unknown. For about 80 percent of people who have epilepsy, seizures can be successfully controlled with modern medications, surgery or alternative treatments such as Vagus nerve stimulation.
The core mission of our Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is to provide world-class care to patients with seizures and related conditions.
Level 4 Comprehensive Epilepsy Center
Our team of neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, nurse practitioners, nurses and electroencephalographic (EEG) technicians focuses on developing a personalized treatment plan to control seizures and improving your quality of life.
Our Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is recognized by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC) with the highest level (Level 4) of certification they award.
The Comprehensive Epilepsy Center Team
Caring for patients with seizures is done with a team approach at the Froedtert Hospital Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.
- Your epileptologist (a neurologist with advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of seizures) will work with a multidisciplinary team to understand and ultimately manage your seizures.
- To help our patients successfully implement their plan of care, our nurse practitioners and nurses coordinate on-going care and work with other team members to address concerns as they arise.
- Our electroencephalographic (EEG) technicians work with you to provide a safe environment in both the inpatient and outpatient setting in which we can use state-of-the-art equipment to measure brain activity to better understand your seizures.
- Neuropsychologists partner with the epilepsy team to help patients and physicians understand the impact of seizures, medications and other factors on memory, focus and other cognitive concerns.
- Neurosurgeons provide expertise in implanting intracranial EEG electrodes as well as a wide range of surgical treatment options for patients with treatment resistant or medically refractory epilepsy.
Advanced Epilepsy Diagnostics
For patients with seizures, comprehensive diagnostic facilities are an important part of understanding your seizures and tailoring your treatment plan. Your epileptologist may need additional imaging data from our MRI or CT facilities or may want to look at aspects of how your brain functions using functional imaging techniques such as functional MRI. Tests of blood flow and metabolism (how the brain uses sugar) can be done with PET testing. Learn more about how we diagnose epilepsy.
Our neurosurgical team also has experience with surgical techniques to place different types of electrodes in order to maximize the value of the study including use of robotically-assisted surgery to place electrodes stereotactically.
Tests of your brain’s physiology utilizing EEG can be done in the outpatient or inpatient settings (depending on the specific clinical situation). Our Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is home to the only magnetoencephalography (MEG) program in the state of Wisconsin. Led by Manoj Raghavan, MD, PhD, this facility provides a non-invasive way of looking at locations where seizures may begin as well as brain function.
Epilepsy Treatment Options
Treatment of epilepsy is an individualized process. Every patient has their own unique experience with seizures and the treatments that are utilized. Treatment may include any or all of the following options.
Our Comprehensive Epilepsy Center has experience using the over 20 different medications (referred to as anti-epileptic drugs or anti-seizure drugs) and in managing the potential side effects that come from these medications. Our epileptologists also have expertise in recognizing and managing important conditions that are common in patients with seizures including depression and anxiety.
Dietary treatments such as the ketogenic diet are an option for some patients with epilepsy. Janel Schneider, MD, leads our ketogenic diet treatment program.
For patients with seizures that do not respond to medications or diet, epilepsy surgery may offer a significant chance to control seizures. Our Comprehensive Epilepsy Center has been an active epilepsy surgery center for over three decades. The team has expertise in surgical techniques for removing or isolating the seizure focus, including resections, lesionectomies, hemispherectomies and corpus colostomies.
For some patients, laser interstitial thermal therapy may be an option for treating seizures. Implantable devices also offer people with epilepsy a significant chance of improved seizure control. Our team utilizes all three devices currently approved by the FDA for treating epilepsy: the vagal nerve stimulator, the responsive neurostimulator and the deep brain stimulator.
Epilepsy and Pregnancy
Women with epilepsy who become pregnant might experience a change in seizure frequency. Pregnancy also causes changes in the way the body processes anti-epileptic medications, so physicians must closely monitor seizures and medication levels during pregnancy. Taking vitamin supplements and folic acid during pregnancy can help prevent certain kinds of birth defects, especially when these vitamins are taken beginning before conception.
Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly are also especially important for women with epilepsy who are pregnant. Finally, because women with epilepsy and their developing babies are at a heightened risk for some prenatal complications, they may undergo extra prenatal testing to monitor the mother's and the baby's health.