Device that slows seizures can save lives

Published: April 16, 2018 4:16 AM EDT
Updated: April 16, 2018 8:13 AM EDT

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, one in 26 Americans will develop the seizure disorder at some point in their lives. Now, new technology is decreasing the frequency of seizures, helping patients live healthier lives.

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,” Weinberg shared.

Weinberg 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,” he said.

Andres Kanner, MD, Chief of the Epilepsy Division at the University of Miami Miller says a seizure is like a short circuit in the brain.

Dr. Kanner explained, “They can lose awareness of their surroundings and be unresponsive and they don’t know what’s happening around them.”

Dr. Kanner says medication can control seizures in 70 percent of patients. But for Mark that wasn’t the case.

Weinberg said, “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,” said Dr. Kanner.

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

Dr. Kanner continued, “As it detects that abnormal pattern it sends an electrical stimulation.”

That stimulation prevents the seizure from happening. Since having the device implanted, Weinberg’s seizures have been cut in half.

“Even if I do have them they’re shorter so I’m not as scared as I used to be,” Weinberg told Ivanhoe.

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

Dr. Kanner says studies show the device is safe and does not affect cognitive function. Dr. Kanner says in the first year 30 to 40 percent of patients notice their seizure frequency may be cut in half.

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Judy Reich, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.