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SSM Health Medical Minute – Treating Epilepsy

ST. LOUIS - Epilepsy is a condition that causes unprovoked, recurrent seizures. The seizures result from abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which can cause strange sensations, loss of muscle control or loss of consciousness. This common neurological disorder affects people of all ages but is especially common in children. Epilepsy can be managed. The first step is to determine the type and cause of your epilepsy. Finding the most effective treatment may take some trial and error.

The signs and symptoms of epilepsy can range from mild to severe and may include:

  • Jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • Muscles becoming weak or limp
  • Repetitive movements like staring, clapping and lip smacking
  • Unusual head and eye movements
  • Changes in thinking or cognition, such as confusion or lack of response to noise or words
  • Sleepiness and irritability upon waking
  • Falling suddenly for no apparent reason
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Apnea

Dr. Phillipe Mercier, SLUCare Neurosurgeon at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital performs surgery for individuals living with epilepsy where the medication needed to control seizures is no longer effective. Two-thirds of patient’s respond to medication but the remaining third may need brain surgery. In certain cases, surgery can dramatically improve the quality of life for people with epilepsy. "The only thing that actually treats the cause of seizures is surgery. Before surgery I can identify where it is coming from so I know prior to surgery so that I can remove that piece of the brain and when I remove it then I've removed the cause of the seizure and therefore cure epilepsy”, said Dr. Mercier.

If you are considering epilepsy surgery, your doctor will perform a series of tests to pinpoint the area of the brain causing your seizures. Ideal candidates for epilepsy surgery are those whose seizures originate from a single location in the brain. That location must also be in a region of the brain where the abnormal area can be safely removed without causing problems with the function of the brain.

Living with epilepsy is not easy. Unexpected seizures are frightening and can affect your daily activities, but the neurosciences team at SSM Health can help you navigate your condition so you can take back control of your life.

For more information about epilepsy, click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs every Thursday at 7 PM on KPLR News 11 and at 9 PM on KTVI Fox 2 News.