The tendency to have recurrent unprovoked seizures is called epilepsy. Seizures are caused by sudden bursts of excessive and uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. Seizures can cause partial or complete loss of consciousness, confusion, nonsensical speech, bizarre behavior, involuntary muscle jerks or movements, unusual sensations, or loss of ability to speak.
One in ten people will have a seizure during his or her life, and epilepsy affects more than 3 million Americans. It has a considerable impact on health, employment and quality of life.
How We Can Help
When you visit our team of neurologists, we'll:
- Complete tests such as an MRI or an EEG (electroencephalogram): These tests help determine the cause of seizures and the risk of recurrence, but it is very common for these tests to have normal results even in patients with epilepsy. We partner with the Epilepsy Center at UnityPoint Health - Des Moines Iowa Methodist Medical Center.
- Discuss a treatment plan with you: This could include discussing your options for seizure medications with your provider.
The Epilepsy Center at Iowa Methodist Medical Center
We strive to provide our patients with the best seizure control possible, and we believe that patients should be well-informed about their diagnosis and actively participate in their treatment decisions.
At our center, we provide a wide range of tests.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) is especially important to help treat patients with epilepsy. It records the brain's electrical activity and can provide support for the diagnosis and type of epilepsy. EEGs also can help locate the region of the brain where a seizure starts.
The Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU)
If more tests are needed to help understand the patient's particular case, simultaneous video and brain wave recording is often the best tool for diagnosis.
This type of study is called video electroencephalography (video EEG). It requires a brief hospital stay at our Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. Unique in central Iowa, this unit allows us to achieve safe, high-quality video EEG studies to help confirm the nature of a patient's seizure. This helps to guide treatment. Video-EEGs are also useful to diagnose episodic events such as fainting or black-out spells, spells of unknown origin, confusion, hallucinations, or behavior spells.
Additional features of our EMU include:
- The patient's cognitive status is monitored by qualified nurses during and immediately after spells. These assessments provide more information as to how seizures affect patients.
- Most patients respond to anti-epileptic medications. Currently there are over 25 seizure medications available. However, about 1/3 of seizure patients will still have seizures despite medications.
- Neurostimulation, such as Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS) and Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). This uses a device to send electrical impulses to the brain and can decrease seizure frequency in many patients who did not benefit from medications with relatively low risk of side effects. With an assessment, you can find out if these devices can be appropriate for you.
- Many other innovative epilepsy therapies are being explored and carry great promise for patients and their care givers.
- Surgery to remove the abnormal brain tissue causing the seizures is an option for patients with medically refractory epilepsy, also known as epilepsy that isn't being effectively treated by medications. This is only done after a very thorough evaluation. Not everybody qualifies for this surgery, and those patients may benefit from other treatments.