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YOUR HEALTH: Helping cut seizures when medicine doesn’t work

MIAMI, Florida – Mark Weinberg has trouble remembering the car accident that changed his life at 16.

"My parents say I was in a coma for four days."

Mark survived but suffered a severe brain injury and started having seizures every week.

"I'll go up to someone and say 'Can you hold my hand, I think I'm having a seizure'."

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, one in 26 Americans will develop the seizure disorder at some point in their lives.

Dr. Andres Kanner from the Epilepsy Center at the University of Miami says a seizure is like a short circuit in the brain.

"They can lose awareness of their surroundings and be unresponsive and they don't know what's happening around them," said Dr. Kanner who is the School's Epilepsy Division Director.

Dr. Kanner says medication can control seizures in 70% of patients.

But for Mark that wasn't the case.

"I think I've been on almost every medicine."

Now new technology is helping patients like Mark.  It's called Responsive Neuro Stimulation, or the RNS system.

"Imagine a pacemaker, which has a computer chip in it," explained Dr. Kanner.

The device, made by NeuroPace, is implanted under the scalp and connected to the areas in the brain causing seizure activity.

"As it detects that abnormal pattern it sends an electrical stimulation," said DR. Kanner.

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  Responsive Neuro Stimulation is known as RNS® Therapy.  The RNS® System device is placed in the bone covering the brain.  Tiny wires are placed in one or two places on top of the brain where seizure activity may begin.   People cannot feel the stimulation once it's programmed; it doesn't cause pain or any unusual feelings.  The RNS® system is designed to work in three ways: monitor brain waves at the seizure focus, all the time, even during sleep, detect unusual electrical activity that can lead to a seizure, and respond within milliseconds to seizure activity by giving small bursts or pulses of stimulation.   (Source: https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epilepsy/devices/responsive-neurostimulationrns)

That stimulation prevents the seizure from happening.  Since having the device implanted, the number of seizures Mark experiences has been cut in half.

"Even if I do have them they're shorter so I'm not as scared as I used to be."

Now he's going to college, living a life with fewer seizures.

EFFECTIVENESS:   The RNS® System has shown to reduce seizures in most people who have used it.   Results
from a controlled trial show that 2 out of 3 people with the RNS® System (66%) had their seizures cut in half
after 7 years of using it.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.