Epilepsy is the third most common neurological disorder after stroke and Alzheimer's disease. It affects 2.5 million Americans. The disorder causes electrical malfunctions in the brain, that lead to seizures.
Many patients get good results from seizure-preventing medication. But others don't. In fact at least half of all people with epilepsy continue to have seizures. Some have them so often it's difficult to live a normal life. Those patients may want to talk to their doctor about surgical alternatives.
Mike Williams of Ocean Springs is one of those difficult to treat patients. This professional photographer has spent most of his life capturing the world through his camera's eye. But now he's beginning a new journey that will be his most important yet. This one could change his life forever
Mike started having seizures when he was a child. He had his first grand mal seizure when he was in high school and was finally diagnosed with Epilepsy. Since then, he's tried countless medications to gain control of his seizures, but the seizures have become more intense and more frequent. At forty years old, he's up to 17 pills a day, and the medication still hasn't eliminated the seizures. Mike says "I've taken just about every kind of pill you can think of". Not only do the medications fail to prevent Mike's seizures, side effects of the drugs can be severe, often leaving Mike feeling exhausted.
The disease has become so debilitating, Mike has decided to try a last resort treatment at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. He's getting ready for a surgery that could mean he'll never have a seizure again. The Medical Center has a level four specialty center for epilepsy, the highest level a hospital can have. Mike's relieved to be on his way to a better, drug free life. "You might be able to hear it in my voice I'm really happy I'm doing this. I might look like I'm all swollen, have this turban on my head with spikes, inside, but I'll go through it again if it means not having epilepsy".
Mike went through extensive tests at Memorial Medical Center's Epilepsy Center to determine whether he's a good candidate for the surgical procedure. Surgeons drilled small holes in his head to insert several strings of electrodes which they attached to his brain. The electrodes are used to pinpoint what part of the brain the seizures are coming from. They recorded his brain activity for ten days.
Nureosurgen, Dr. Michael Carey says " The most common type of epilepsy comes from the temporal lobe, and those seizures are good for surgery in many cases". After several days of monitoring around the clock by the epilepsy center's technicians.......doctors determine where Mike's seizures are coming from. As Dr. Carey shows us the brain wave activity study, he says it's good news. "This is his left temporal lobe and you can see all this activity as the seizure starts....this is right and it's nice and quiet". That's good news he says because the left temporaral lobe is ideal for surgery. "It's a good part of the brain to operate on, there aren't that many functions there, the chances of becoming seizure free in those people is over seventy percent".
But even though potential for a positive outcome is good .........Neurosurgeon Dr. Bruce Fisch says there are serious risks. "The most serious risk is one out of one hundred patients will be paralyzed who have this operation". But Mike says it's a risk worth taking. "The success rate and cure rate is pretty high, so far, so good".