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This article was published in June 2013. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

Laser surgery tool gathers evidence

20 Jun 2013

Surgeon in an operating theatreNew evidence supports the use of a new surgical tool in treating epilepsy. Rather than a traditional scalpel, a laser tool burns away the seizure focus – and only needs a one-night stay in hospital

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, US, have presented promising results for their laser surgery tool. Fourteen people with epilepsy have now had the treatment. Five of those 14 cases were recently presented at the American Academy of Neurology.

The laser tool is far less invasive than traditional epilepsy surgery. With regular surgery, often a whole section of skull must be temporarily removed so a surgeon can remove brain tissue. With the laser tool, only a small hole must be made in the skull before a laser-scalpel is inserted. The laser is used to burn away any brain tissue that causes seizures, such as a lesion.

operating theatre with diagram of brainOf the five people treated, two became completely seizure-free within weeks of treatment – having previously experienced around 64 seizures a month. After treatment, a third person experienced seizure activity only in the form of an ‘aura’. An aura is mild epileptic activity that usually means a larger seizure is coming.

The fourth and fifth people treated were having an average of 41 seizures a month before treatment. Afterwards, one experienced only three seizures over several months, while the other had a 50 per cent seizure reduction (half as many).

The laser treatment appears very effective. While being less invasive than traditional methods, it also offers a shorter recover time. All the people treated only needed one night in hospital for the treatment and returned to regular activities within a week.

Research continues. For more information, visit the Mayo Clinic website.

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