New epilepsy treatment shows promise


Monica Lovelace cherishes every moment she spends with her children, time that is sometimes interrupted by violent seizures.

"My stomach starts to get queasy, heart racing like crazy, then I black out," Lovelace said.

But lately her epileptic seizures have dropped off dramatically. Not because of a drug, but a tiny computer surgically implanted in her skull.

"Last month I went a whole month without a seizure which was like, 'whoa,'" she said.

The device, called NeuroPace, is designed to produce responsive neurostimulation (RNS).

The device is similar deep brain stimulation devices, which deliver electricity into the brain at preset intervals to interrupt the misfiring neurons responsible for seizures.

But according to neurosurgeon David King-Stephens, there is a key difference with RNS.

"The difference is that it responds, or response to changes in brainwave activity in the patient and once it detects that there is going to be a seizure, it delivers the electrical stimulation," King-Stephens said.

The device also records brainwave activity, helping doctors to program it. By sensing small changes early on, it can interrupt a seizure before it is full blown and prevent the symptoms.

"We train the device to recognize that the paten indicates that a seizure is going to develop, so if you give the stimulation at the right time you can abort the seizure," King-Stephens said.

ABC7 first reported on NeuroPace in 2008, when clinical trials were underway at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

Surgeons have since implanted NeuroPace in nearly 200 patients nationwide. This summer, the Mountain View-based company reported positive results from Phase 3 clinical trials and it is now seeking FDA approval.

If it gets the OK, King-Stephens believes NeuroPace could eventually be used for conditions beyond epilepsy.

"Such as depression, obsessive compulsive behavior, chronic pain, maybe movement disorders, Parkinson's disease," he said.

Its long term effectiveness will not be known for several years, but patients like Lovelace believe this new technology could be life changing.

In the clinical trials, all of the participants had the device implanted but researchers only activated a percentage of those to conduct the comparison. In the next open-label phase, all of the patients will have their devices activated.

Copyright © 2024 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.