A new fibre-optic laser therapy for people with drug-resistant focal epilepsy will be offered on the NHS, with the first of these surgeries taking place in early 2023.
This new technology allows surgeons to target the specific part of the brain causing seizures without the need for the more traditional invasive surgery.
The laser beam brain surgery will initially be available at two specialist service providers in England.
The laser treatment is carried out in an MRI scanner to help the medical team accurately navigate through the brain and avoid important structures. The treatment requires a small probe (1.5mm-wide) to be placed into the skull with the fibre optic laser at the tip of it. It works by removing the part of the brain where seizures start using heat.
People having this treatment are likely to be able to go home the next day and be back to work or usual activities within a week, according to NHS England.
The organisation said the laser beam brain surgery will benefit up to 150 people each year.
NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “This pioneering laser beam treatment for epilepsy patients is life-changing and will offer hope to hundreds of people every year who have not had success in preventing seizures with traditional drugs.
“By replacing invasive neurosurgery with a cutting-edge laser therapy, allowing clinicians to better target the parts of the brain causing the epilepsy, we not only dramatically reduce risks to these patients, but drastically reduce their recovery time both in and out of hospital.”
An exciting ray of hope
Alison Fuller, director of Health Improvement and Influencing at Epilepsy Action, said: “This new therapy is an exciting ray of hope for the many people with epilepsy whose lives are being impacted by the harsh reality of uncontrolled seizures.
“Research shows that around 3 in 10 people with epilepsy have seizures which do not respond well to standard treatment with epilepsy medication. This means many continue to face significant challenges in other areas of life, from education to employment.
“Traditional brain surgery can be a really effective treatment, for those eligible, and we hear from many people who say it’s had a positive impact on their seizures.
“But, choosing to have invasive surgery can be an incredibly difficult decision to make, given the potential risks and long recovery times involved.
“We hope that making this exciting new treatment available on the NHS gives even more people with epilepsy the chance to achieve better seizure control, which will improve outcomes and ultimately their quality of life.”
NHS England says this is the latest example of the NHS delivering on the Long Term Plan commitment to ensure patients across the country have access to the latest and most effective treatments available.