NHS to offer epilepsy patients a new form of laser surgery

Up to 150 people a year with epilepsy will have a new form of surgery that could change the life of their brain causing their seizures, in an NHS initiative.

NHS England is making available a “world-leading” fiber-optic laser beam surgery that would allow epilepsy patients to avoid having to undergo neurosurgery, which is much more invasive.

The surgeons will begin distributing the treatment to two as yet unidentified hospitals, one each in the north and south of England, early next year. It aims to help patients whose condition has not responded positively to antiepileptic drug treatments.

About 600,000 Brits – nearly one in 100 of the population – suffer from epilepsy. A third party cannot control their condition using medication alone. They may need neurosurgery to remove the part of their brain that is causing them to seize, which can be fatal.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, National Media Director of NHS England, said: “This pioneering laser beam treatment for epilepsy patients is life changing and will offer hope to hundreds of people each year who have been unsuccessful in seizure prevention. with traditional drugs.

“By replacing invasive neurosurgery with state-of-the-art laser therapy, which allows doctors to better target the parts of the brain that cause epilepsy, we are not only dramatically reducing the risks for these patients, but we are dramatically reducing recovery times both in and out. out of the hospital. “

While about 150,000 people have seizures, only about 10,000 of them are candidates for neurosurgery, NHS England said. This is because the source of the seizure cannot be located or the attacks are not frequent or intense enough. Only a fraction of these people decide to undergo neurosurgery.

People eligible for the new laser surgery will have focal epilepsy which has not been controlled by them taking maximum doses of two different drugs and which have been seen in an epilepsy surgery center.

Professor James Palmer, NHS Medical Director for Specialized Services, said it was “a revolutionary breakthrough for patients who have not been successful with traditional forms of treatment to control their seizures and will give those with epilepsy a real chance to live a normal life “.

Patients will be able to go home the next day and resume work and normal activities a week later, while those undergoing neurosurgery will stay in the hospital for a week and will have to recover at home for three months.

Maxine Smeaton, chief executive of Epilepsy Research UK, welcomed the move but added: “Chronic underinvestment in epilepsy research has meant effective treatments for all those living with the condition are still decades away. more common and severe neurological conditions, only 0.3% of the £ 4.8 billion spent on health research was invested in epilepsy. We need more investment and more research so we can make major breakthroughs for health patients like this “.

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