This information is relevant to people who live in the UK.
- Brain surgery
- Vagus nerve stimulation
- The ketogenic diet
- Deep brain stimulation
- Trigeminal nerve stimulation
Most people with epilepsy take epilepsy medicine, which can be very effective in reducing or stopping seizures. But if it does not work well for you, there are other treatments that may help.
A small number of people with epilepsy can have brain surgery to try and stop their seizures. Doctors will usually only consider surgery for you if there is an obvious cause in your brain for your epilepsy, such as scar tissue. You will also have to have tried a few different epilepsy medicines, but still be having seizures. You and your doctor will need to weigh up the benefits and risks of having brain surgery.
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a treatment for epilepsy where a small device is implanted under the skin below the left collar bone. This device, similar to a pace-maker, is called a generator. The generator is connected to a thin wire, which stimulates the vagus nerve in the person’s neck at regular times throughout the day. This sends impulses to the brain, which helps to prevent electrical activity that causes seizures.
It can take from a couple of months to two years after the VNS is implanted to notice a difference in seizure control. Sometimes, it doesn’t work at all. The benefits of having the VNS can include the following:
- Fewer seizures
- Less severe seizures
- Improved quality of life
The ketogenic diet is sometimes used to try and help children whose seizures cannot be reduced or stopped with epilepsy medicine. The diet is higher in fats and lower in carbohydrates than a typical diet.
The ketogenic diet should only be used under the supervision of a dietician who is an expert in the diet. This is because the balance of the diet needs to be carefully worked out for each child. Some children find the diet unpleasant and difficult to follow. Other children manage the diet very well.
Some children become seizure free as a result of the diet. Other children have fewer seizures. However, the diet does not work for every child, and it is not possible to predict who it will help.
At present, the ketogenic diet is not used for adults with epilepsy in the UK. However, doctors are doing some research to see if this would be possible in the future.
Deep brain stimulation is a treatment where a part of your brain is stimulated, to stop you having symptoms of a particular medical condition. It is only considered for people who can’t have their seizures controlled by epilepsy medicines or other types of surgery.
Trigeminal nerve stimulation is one of a variety of types of neurostimulation being explored at the moment. It is not yet available for people in the UK.
Pay it forward
This resource is freely available as part of Epilepsy Action’s commitment to improving life for all those affected by epilepsy.
On average it costs £414 to produce an advice and information page – if you have valued using this resource, please text FUTURE to 70500 to donate £3 towards the cost of our future work. Terms and conditions. Thank you
Epilepsy Action would like to thank thank Dr John Paul Leach, consultant neurologist, Southern General Hospital, Glasgow for his contribution.
Dr John Paul Leach has declared no conflict of interest.
This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.
Updated April 2014To be reviewed April 2017