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Epilepsy Care

A research and treatment leader

Living with epilepsy can be difficult and challenging.

Yet even while we and other university neurology researchers and physicians around the world continue to explore cures, great strides have been made.

Patients, for example, now can find an expanding world of knowledge to help them cope with the disease, recognize and avoid certain things that may trigger seizures, and mitigate their effects with the latest proven treatments that emerge from the research that university hospitals like ours do.

Here, you will also find some of the brightest stars in neurology at University of Colorado Hospital, as well as the broadest, deepest array of epilepsy specialists and providers in the Rocky Mountain region.

Medical Team

Your attending physicians are some of the most renowned specialists in the nation, and serve on the faculty of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

At UCH you'll find:

  • Four full-time epileptologists
  • Two neurosurgeons with special expertise and considerable experience in epileptic surgery
  • A team of neuropsychiatrists and neuropsychologists with a special interest in epilepsy

At UCH your caregivers are a large collaborative team of Magnet (meaning the best, most scientific and patient-centered) nurses and one of the largest group of specialists, sub-specialists and sub-sub specialists in the Rocky Mountain west.

Tests and Treatments

Epilepsy can manifest itself in
characteristic patterns in the
electroencephalogram (EEG).
(Illustration: NIC)

Tests

A UCH specialist will assess your medical history and perform a comprehensive neurologic exam, and will ask for a detailed description of your seizure. You may need someone who has witnessed your seizures to describe to a doctor what occurred.

A doctor will test your reflexes and perform blood tests to rule out any other condition.

In addition, in order to reveal abnormalities of the brain and determine the best course of treatment, a specialist may perform brain scans, such as:

  • electroencephalograms (EEGs)
  • computerized tomography (CT)
  • positron emission tomography (PET)
  • magnetic encephalography (MEG)
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Treatments

Medications. Anti-seizure medications are usually taken by mouth and vary in the side effects they produce.

In VNS, electrical impulses are
directed into the brain through
the vagus nerve in the neck.
(Illustration: Cybertronics)

Ablative Surgery. Depending on the area of the brain where seizure originates, surgery may be an option. Some areas of the brain that produce seizures can be surgically removed. It is not a replacement for taking medication.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation. In Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), electrical impulses are directed into the brain through the vagus nerve in the neck. The impulses are sent by an electrode that is surgically implanted.

Ketogenic Diet. A diet that is high in fats and low in carbohydrates has been shown to eliminate seizures entirely in some children. It is not used in adults.

Patient Education

Epilepsy: Getting a Second Opinion

People who suffer from epilepsy may choose to seek additional medical advice from another doctor or specialist.

Support Groups

  • Epilepsy Foundation
  • Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado
  • Epilepsy Education/Support Group: For patients, family members and friends. Third Wednesday of each month from 7 - 9 p.m. at the University of Colorado Hospital. Information: Rhonda DeBello at (720) 848-2080.

Additional Resources

Epilepsy

Epilepsy at a Glance

Epilepsy causes the brain to send out abnormal signals that result in seizures.

Some of the seizures can be severe, and involve convulsions of the body. Others alter consciousness, but don't involve bodily jerking and movement.

For some people, seizures occur in a pattern  and have identifiable triggers. Some of the more common:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Stress
  • Flashing bright lights
  • Alcohol use
  • Specific foods
  • Certain medications

Risk factors for epilepsy include head injuries, brain infections and stroke.

Who's vulnerable?

People with a family history of epilepsy are 2.5 times more likely to develop a seizure disorder.