Science And Health: Stopping Seizures

Science & Health: Stopping Seizures

Richard Lopez gathers data from his NeuroPace device to send to UC Davis.

Richard Lopez, now 43-years-old and living in Tracy, CA, hadn’t experienced a normal week in over three decades. The ripe age of 10 and hanging out with friends at a local amusement part, Lopez has no recollection of his first grand mal seizure that left him unconscious on the pavement.

Over 3 million Americans live with chronic epilepsy, and a majority of epileptics and their neurologists will never know the true cause for their seizures. Lopez, on the other hand, suffers from a specific kind of seizure disorder known as focal onset epilepsy. Basically, he is one of a few whose doctors can locate where his seizures start in his brain. Only around 1,000 Americans suffer from this particular subset in the family of diseases.

Fast forward to 2016, and Lopez had already tried countless medications, almost none of which worked, the few that did leaving him practically comatose. He even has a failed attempt at neurosurgery under his belt in search for seizure reprieve.

Finally, he was able to stumble into the office of Dr. Masud Seyal of the UC Davis Comprehensive Epilepsy Program. One of the highest ranked centers in the country, UC Davis programs focus on innovative techniques for some of the most elaborate epilepsy cases.

He introduced Lopez to NeuroPace, a tiny breakthrough device that is implanted into the epileptic focal point in the brain. From there, the technology monitors brain waves in the patients, looking for patterns of normal activity, pre-seizure activity, and post-seizure activity. The device is quickly able to gather the pattern that signals an oncoming seizure, and mitigates the process by shooting electrical disturbances of its own.

This photo shows the device’s location in another patient. Courtesy Adison Malkiewicz

Further, patients are provided with a handheld wand to scan the skull’s surface for data collection. The device can transmit data directly to physicians at the UC Davis center to monitor and adjust treatment progress. This is particularly important in the early stage as the device is learning the patient’s baseline brain wave activity.

Developed by a Silicon Valley technological health firm, the concept is similar to a pacemaker that detects an irregular heartbeat and provides measures to get the pattern back on track. And it works. As of April 13, 2017, Lopez has been seizure free for a full 365 days, the first time in 33 years.

Still being new and the only device like it on the market, all it took was a cool $37,000. Luckily, Lopez’s insurance provider covered the cost.

Even though currently designed to benefit a small portion of the epilepsy population, researchers are optimistic that the technology can be transferred to the more complex epilepsy causes, but that will be some time in the future.

For now, NeuroPace is thrilled to be able to provide Lopez and others like him the capability to live more fulfilling lives.