Stanford team helps woman battle epileptic seizures

Surgeons at Stanford Hospital helped a Bay Area woman overcome intractable epilepsy and have fewer seizures.
January 23, 2014 5:21:42 PM PST
A Bay Area woman is behind the wheel one again after a delicate surgery that's given back to her the freedom to drive, and much more. Surgeons at Stanford Hospital believe the procedure could be a good option for others with the same condition.

The last few years have been an extremely bumpy ride for Laura Koellsted. The mother of two had not only lost her driver's license, but control of her life as well because of intractable epilepsy. The severe form of the disease couldn't be controlled with medication.

"I was a shell of a human being," Koellsted says. "It was a battle. I'd have anywhere from five to 20 seizures a day!"

Koellsced was desperate by the time she turned to intractable epilepsy program at Stanford Hospital. Josef Parvizi, M.D., says the team believed they might be able to help Koellsced with surgery. But first, they'd have to learn where the seizures were originating in the brain and whether the cause was localized in one area.

"So that we could take the problem making cells out, without causing any harm on the areas that are of extreme importance," explains Parvizi.

To accomplish that, neurosurgeons eventually implanted a sheet of electrodes onto her brain and then carefully monitored the output during her seizures. It's a process known as functional mapping.

"Everything was originating from a tiny area of her brain," says Parvizi.

But even with the precise maps of Koellsced's brain, the surgery could have left her with severe side effects, including paralysis. After the long and complicated surgery, the Stanford team removed the malfunctioning section, leaving her with some with some weakness in her right foot and ankle, but seizure free.

"I feel amazing," she says.

While not everyone with intractable epilepsy is a candidate for this surgery, Parvizi says the initial stages of the evaluation process involve non-invasive imaging tests that can be performed over several days.

"We have a very streamlined process for diagnosing patients with medication resistant epilepsy," explains Parvizi.

As for Koellsced, one her first stops after recovery was the Department of Motor Vehicles, where she eventually passed her driving test.

Information on the epilepsy center is available here.

Written and produced by Tim Didion


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