When your epilepsy can’t be controlled with medications, your neurologist may recommend implanting a neurostimulation device to help eliminate or reduce your likelihood of having a seizure. Each pacemaker-like device aims to prevent seizures by disrupting the electrical activity in the brain that causes seizures in the first place.
Responsive Neurostimulation System
A responsive neurostimulation (RNS) is a small battery-powered device that emits electrical charges that disrupt seizure activity. The thumb-sized device is implanted in the skull via a craniotomy, where it can sense abnormal brainwave activity and respond by generating electrical charges before a seizure starts.
A responsive neurostimulation device isn’t a cure for epilepsy and you’ll still need to take anti-seizure medications. However, many people experience fewer and less intense seizures with the device. Doctors in the Sutter Health network have the most experience in the world implanting these devices thanks to the epilepsy specialists at California Pacific Medical Center who led the clinical trials.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Vagus nerve stimulation involves installing a neurostimulation device that delivers electrical pulses to the brain via the vagus nerve in your neck. The battery-powered device, about the size of a silver dollar, is implanted in the left side of your chest or armpit and connected to the vagus nerve in your neck via a wire of electrodes that run underneath your skin. Because the vagus nerve has few pain fibers, it’s an ideal pathway to deliver signals to your brain without the need for direct brain stimulation.
Vagus nerve stimulation doesn't cure epilepsy, but the stimulator typically reduces seizures by 20 to 40 percent with minimal side effects, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. While you'll still need to take anti-seizure medications, many people experience fewer and less intense seizures with the device.
Deep Brain Stimulation
In addition to treating people with Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and other movement disorders, deep brain stimulation has proven to be an effective treatment for people with certain types of epilepsy-related seizures.
The deep brain stimulation device involves three components. The surgeon implants:
- Electrodes in the parts of the brain that control movement.
- A pulse-generating device in the chest.
- A wire under the skin connecting the two.
Your doctor will program the device to deliver electric pulses to suit your condition's needs.
Discuss Your Options
Talk to your neurologist about which treatment option is best for you. Across the Sutter Health network, our epilepsy centers have consistently been awarded the highest rating possible by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers for providing excellent care.