Implant device decreasing frequency of seizures in MGH patients

BOSTON — For people who suffer from seizures, the standard treatment is medication, but many times they come with side effects or simply don't work.

"I was at work one day, and the next day I wasn't.  So my life completely changed,” said Ouida Foster, from Brookline.

Her first seizure turned her life upside down. She was an otherwise healthy adult, with no family history of epilepsy.

"I describe it as being; I was on a rollercoaster,” she said.

Not only did it change her life, but it started on a path of medication after medication, as she tried to find something that worked and didn’t have too many side effects.

“Drug after drug after drug. I tried 10 different drugs.  None of them were working,” she said.

Ouida then heard about a new a small electronic device using "space-age" technology is stopping seizures in their tracks, by “learning” what happens in a patient's brain just before they start.

“It's pretty revolutionary,” said Dr. Andrew Cole with Massachusetts General Hospital.

Ouida was anxious to give it a try.

Cole says seizures come on without warning. It means people can't plan, can't drive. The RNS device is an implant in the brain that learns the brain wave signature that leads up to a seizure. When it sees the wave, it stimulates the part of the brain where it's happening.

“It's programmed to deliver that to the appropriate area to try to stop that to interrupt it,” said Cole.

Ouida had the implant put in; she was having up to 10 or 11 seizures a month, but now she's seen them mostly reduced to about three.  Dr. Cole admits it’s not perfect, and it’s not for everyone, but it can relieve some of the anxiety around epilepsy.

“Even if it can produce a meaningful reduction in their seizure frequency, for many patients that's an improvement in their quality of life,” he said.

At MGH, there are about 25 patients with the RNS.  Most have had at least a significant reduction in their seizures, some are completely seizure-free.