April 05, 2002

Contact:
Debbie Neufert
Media Relations, LHSC
519-685-8500, ext. 74772

Epilepsy treatment goes high-tech at London Health Sciences Centre

(LONDON, Ontario) - The Epilepsy Unit at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) has been refitted with the most state-of-the-art equipment to monitor and investigate epileptic seizures. The new equipment will provide more accurate and efficient detection of seizures to determine whether patients are candidates for surgery to help stop the seizures. LHSC's Epilepsy Unit is the largest of its kind in Canada and a world leader in epilepsy treatment.

Each of the eight beds in the unit will now be equipped with a colour video camera, microphone, and a cutting-edge version of equipment which traces electrical impulses in the brain, called an EEG (eletroencephalogram). Physicians and staff will now be able to monitor patients 24-hours a day, without interruption, and capture seizures and pinpoint their origin in the brain as they happen.

Understanding exactly where seizures begin in the brain is key to determining if surgery is an option. The audio and video equipment is inconspicuous and mounted in the ceiling so it's not intrusive to patients. The video equipment, which also has infrared capabilities to view patients sleeping at night, will provide an opportunity to record and see physically what happens to a patient during a seizure.

The new technology also provides for remote monitoring. Patients can leave the unit and walk to other parts of the hospital and still be monitored. Physicians and staff can also access the live EEG recording and video of a patient from any of LHSC's three campuses.

Dr. Samuel Wiebe (weeb), Neurologist and Director of LHSCs Epilepsy Program, says, "This incredible new technology will provide us with even greater precision in detecting where in the brain the seizures begin, and continuous monitoring gives us the capability to capture more seizures over a shorter period of time. It's a huge step forward in helping our patients. It also means patients will now spend less time in the hospital, and they will know sooner whether surgery is an option."

LHSC purchased the new equipment from XLTEK for just over $890,000. Dr. Wiebe and the Epilepsy team are also working with XLTEK to develop non-invasive technologies to view the origin of seizures in the brain through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

LHSC's Epilepsy Unit, which was closed for three weeks to install the equipment, will re-open to patients Monday, April 8, 2002.

London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC)
Epilepsy Unit - Fact Sheet

  • The unit is the largest of its kind in Canada and a global leader in epilepsy treatment. Dr. Samuel Wiebe is the Director of LHSC's Epilepsy Program. The unit is located at LHSC's University Campus in London, Ontario.
  • LHSC's Epilepsy Program began in 1974. A four-bed unit opened in 1986. The unit expanded to the current eight-bed unit in 1993.
  • Approximately 250 patients are cared for each year in LHSC's epilepsy unit. The majority of patients are from Southwestern Ontario, however, the unit is also a national referral centre for epilepsy. The unit has also treated some international patients.
  • EEG (electroencephalogram): A recording of the electrical impulses of the brain.
  • Definition of Epilepsy: The word "epilepsy" is derived from the Greek word meaning a condition of being overcome, seized or attacked. Epilepsy is not a disease. It is a symptom of a neurological disorder - a physical condition - that from time to time produces brief disturbances in the normal electrical functions of the brain. Epilepsy is characterized by sudden, brief seizures whose nature and intensity vary from person to person.
  • A seizure may appear as a brief stare, an unusual movement of the body, a change in awareness, or a convulsion. A seizure may last a few seconds or a few minutes. Not all seizures indicate that a person has epilepsy.
  • Approximately 1 per cent of the population, about 300,000 Canadians have epilepsy.
  • Each day in Canada, an average of 34 people learn that they have epilepsy.
  • Each year an average of 14,000 people learn that they have epilepsy; 3,200 are children under the age of 10, and 3,936 are over the age of 60. This means about 60 per cent of new patients are young children and senior citizens.
  • The major form of treatment is long-term drug therapy. Drugs are not a cure and can have numerous, sometimes severe, side-effects.
  • Brain surgery is recommended when the seizures are confined to one area of the brain where brain tissue can be safely removed without damaging personality or function.

For more information about epilepsy visit Epilepsy Canada at www.epilepsy.ca

 

Photographs

 

Dr. Michael Strong, LHSC Chief of Neurology and Co-Chair of Clinical Neurological Sciences, Dr. Andrew Parrent, LHSC Neurosurgeon, and Dr. Samuel Wiebe, Neurologist and Director of LHSC's Epilepsy Unit, at the reopening celebration of LHSC's epilepsy unit.

Pictured in the photograph from left to right are Dr. Michael Strong, LHSC Chief of Neurology and Co-Chair of Clinical Neurological Sciences, Dr. Andrew Parrent, LHSC Neurosurgeon, and Dr. Samuel Wiebe, Neurologist and Director of LHSC's Epilepsy Unit, at the reopening celebration of LHSC's epilepsy unit.

The unit now has the most leading-edge equipment to treat epilepsy. The new technology is inconspicuous and fitted into the ceiling over each of the eight beds in the epilepsy unit.

The small dome and black box above the patient's bed is the camera with infrared capability, and what looks like a smoke detector directly over the patient's bed is the microphone. The computer screens in the foreground of the picture are the output of the camera and microphone which allows nurses, doctors and other hospital staff to monitor and record epilepsy patients 24 hours a day and capture seizures as they happen. The cameras can be turned 360 degrees and have zoom capability and are controlled using the computers.

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