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This article was published in December 2014. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

Laser ablation: bring it to Britain

10 Dec 2014

A UK mother has started a campaign to see laser ablation treatment offered in the UK. The treatment is already offered in the US and has demonstrated positive results in treating tumours called hypothalamic harmartoma (HH) – the main side-effect of which is epilepsy

The campaign for British laser ablation surgery was started by Vivanne Gattoc. Vivianne’s son, Anthony, had epilepsy caused by HH. Vivianne said: “He had HH and lived with uncontrolled seizures every day of his life. He had surgery to partly remove his brain tumour, but he continued having seizures which stopped him living life normally."

Anthony’s condition and that of many like him might have been more effectively treated with laser ablation.This is a relatively new surgical technique that burns away accurately targeted tissue with a surgical laser.

The technique is much less invasive than traditional brain surgery, but allows surgeons to operate deeper in the brain. It is also much more accurate and carries fewer risks of complications. These factors make it suitable for operating on HH, which occur deep in the brain. However, it is not currently used to treat HH. The campaign to change this has the support of Martin Tisdall, lead epilepsy surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Mr Tisdall told Epilepsy Today: “Seizures related to HH tend to be extremely resistant to medical treatment and can have a devastating effect on cognitive development and quality of life. Surgery has a much better chance of curing seizures than medical therapy. However, the abnormality is deep within the brain, making the surgery complex and potentially hazardous.

“Laser thermoablation involves passing a thin laser into the abnormality and then heating it to destroy the abnormal tissue. The treatment is unlikely to be a miracle cure in all cases, but the published studies suggest that it may be a very important part of our treatment options for this disease.

“Great Ormond Street Hospital is the largest UK centre for the surgical treatment of paediatric epilepsy. We are very hopeful that, in the future, we will be able to offer this treatment to children from across the UK and Europe.”

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Two recent studies were presented at the American Epilepsy Society 66th Annual Meeting in San Diego, US. Both have shown developments in using ‘laser ablation’ surgery to treating epilepsy

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