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Epilepsy affects about 1% of children. It’s a complex condition, but with treatment, most children manage seizures and live without major disruptions to their everyday lives. However, for those with intractable epilepsy, also called refractory epilepsy, surgery may be the best way to eliminate seizures.
The board-certified and fellowship-trained neurosurgeons with Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, perform more than 750 epilepsy surgeries every year with precision, expertise and skill.
Thomas M. Moriarty, M.D., Ph.D., leads the team of experienced neurosurgeons. Our physicians have the sophisticated tools and skills to give you and your child a precise diagnosis and a customized treatment plan for epilepsy that minimizes risk of side effects, so your child can get back to being a kid.
Norton Children’s Hospital is the only hospital in Kentucky equipped to perform minimally invasive neurosurgery in children who, in the past, would not have been candidates for surgery.
Using Visualase technology, Norton Children’s neurosurgeons thread a tiny instrument about the width of a piece of spaghetti into the patient’s brain. Real-time MRI guides the tool along a precise path, and once it reaches the source of the child’s seizures, a small amount of heat eliminates the lesion. The procedure usually takes only minutes, and most patients go home the following day.
Surgery previously wasn’t an option for lesions deep in the brain, because damage to surrounding tissue would have been too great.
Fewer than two dozen pediatric hospitals in the U.S. offer this technology.
Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute now has Surgical Theater virtual reality (VR) technology that creates an immersive 3D view of a child’s brain. This allows neurosurgeons, patients and families to see inside the child’s skull and brain to get a greater understanding of the condition and potential surgical procedures. Norton Children’s Hospital is the first hospital in the region to use this technology.
When larger parts of the brain are involved, team members can perform procedures such as a functional hemispherectomy or corpus callosotomy.
In a functional hemispherectomy, the surgeon removes the part of the brain where seizures start. In a corpus callostomy, to prevent a seizure from spreading from one side of the brain to the other, the surgeon may cut the corpus callosum, which sends signals from one hemisphere to the other.
Norton Children’s neurosurgeons also use vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), which can reduce the frequency of seizures. The surgeon places the stimulator under the skin on the left side of the chest. Electrodes connect to the vagus nerve on the left side of the neck.
The VNS device sends regular pulses of electrical energy to the brain to prevent seizures. The pulses are so mild the patient typically doesn’t notice.
VNS devices are U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved for children ages 4 and older.
Responsive neurostimulation (RNS) involves placement of a battery-powered device within the skull and one to two electrodes in areas of the brain. When the device detects unusual electrical activity that could lead to a seizure, it sends a small pulse within milliseconds to help brainwaves return to normal. The stimulation doesn’t cause pain or unusual feelings.