Epilepsy 

Each day in Canada, an average of 42 people learn that they have epilepsy.

Approximately 17,000 Albertans (300,000 Canadians) have epilepsy, a physical condition characterized by sudden, brief changes in how the brain works. It is a symptom of a brain disorder that shows itself in the form of seizures that can have devastating effects on a person’s ability to live a regular life.

Activities we take for granted – driving, working, carrying a baby, riding a bike, swimming – may become life-threatening if a seizure occurs. Even in non life-threatening situations, seizures may cause massive disruptions to a person’s day and be the source of debilitating embarrassment and anxiety.

The University of Alberta Hospital’s neurosciences department is the leading care provider to western Canadians living with epilepsy through its Comprehensive Epilepsy Program. The program has approximately 1600 visits per year. Dr. Don Gross, a neurologist at the UAH, estimates that 2/3 of his patients are from across western Canada.

Located at the new Kaye Edmonton Clinic, the program features nine new EEG (electroencephalography) machines and video cameras - paid for in full by University Hospital Foundation donors - that allow neurologists to simultaneously monitor body movement and electrical activity in the brain during seizures.

This information is used to quickly pinpoint the source of the brain disorder, take action to correct it, and to restore the patient’s quality of life.

Surgical Treatment of Epilepsy

 

60% of Canadians who have epileptic seizures are able to successfully control their seizures with medication. The remaining 40% must turn to alternative methods, including, on an increasing basis, surgery.

The University of Alberta Hospital’s new Intraoperative MRI has had a revolutionary effect on neurosurgery for epilepsy patients.

"Epilepsy surgeries used to take a long time,” explains Dr. Matt Wheatley. “Patients would move from their family doctor to a neurologist to a neurosurgeon. With the IMRI, patients get an MRI a minute after their surgery – allowing the neurosurgeon to assess the success of the surgery.

The hospital’s advanced surgical approach to the treatment of epilepsy has led to referrals from across western Canada, including northern BC, northern Saskatchewan, southern Yukon and Nunavut.

“We treat both simple and complex epilepsy patients who may require more invasive or complicated procedures,” explains Dr. Matt Wheatley, the Divisional Director of Neurosurgery at the University of Alberta Hospital.

“We have world leaders in research, as well as national and international clinical leaders.”

60 individuals run the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, including neurologists, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, diagnostic imaging, electrophysiology, and neurosurgeons.

Epilepsy Monitoring Unit

The Brain Centre Campaign is raising funds to support the creation of a new Epilepsy Monitoring Unit to improve patient safety and comfort while they are in hospital for epilepsy monitoring.

Monitoring is very challenging for a patient. When patients are being monitored, they are confined to a bed and hooked to a computer - sometimes for a week, sometimes two weeks – while epilepsy specialists provoke a stroke, in order to measure where the seizures come from.

Creating a dedicated Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, and equipping it with the most advanced equipment possible, will allow the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program to gather all of the information they require to assess and treat patients in a safe and comfortable environment.

 

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