Four years, two London doctors, one surgical first in Peru

A journey that started in 2008 has resulted in a surgical first in Peru for a procedure that is common in Canada. Dr. Jorge Burneo, neurologist, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), and Dr. David Steven, neurosurgeon, LHSC, have recently returned from a trip to Lima, Peru where they acted as advisors during the country’s first epilepsy surgery – a left temporal lobectomy.

First epilepsy surgery

Right, Dr. David Steven advises the surgeons during a left temporal lobectomy, the first epilepsy surgery in Peru. 

“In 2008, our goal was to establish an epilepsy program in Peru modeled on the world-renowned epilepsy program at LHSC by sharing our expertise,” says Burneo. “In four years, our progress has led to a surgical first for Peru.”

Since 2011, Burneo and Steven have been communicating with a Peruvian team of neurologists and neurosurgeons online and on the telephone to discuss potential surgical cases.

“We acted as advisors to help build surgical expertise,” says Steven. “The surgery was not without its challenges, taking nearly twice as long as a similar surgery in Canada; however, the patient’s daily seizures have not returned since.” Typically a patient must be free from seizures for over a year for a surgery to be considered successful.

With close to 30 million people and an incidence and prevalence of epilepsy that triples that of Canada, Peru lacks the surgical expertise to help 30 per cent of all epilepsy patients that cannot be treated by medication. “This 30 per cent of patients have a poor quality of life,” said Burneo.                         

Burneo has been travelling to Peru since 2008. He first gave workshops to neurologists on video-EEG (electroencephalogram), which measures electrical activity along the scalp to help diagnose seizures. By the end of the following year, they were running their own video-EEG unit and identifying surgical cases. In 2011, Steven joined Burneo on a trip to Peru to lecture about epilepsy surgery and the multidisciplinary aspect of the epilepsy team.

Since 2008, four physicians have also travelled to LHSC for observerships, lasting as long as three months.

 View more photos of the surgical first on LHSC's Facebook page.