What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is not just one condition, but a group of many different ‘epilepsies’ with one thing in common: a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain.

Why rely on Washington University for treatment of your epilepsy?

The Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is a certified Center of Excellence and is the largest epilepsy surgery center in the region. More than 3,000 patients are seen annually. The center is classified as a Level 4 Epilepsy Center, with the highest level of patient care standards for the treatment of epilepsy.

With state-of-the-art research and laboratory facilities, Washington University experts are constantly seeking medical discoveries and innovations for people with epilepsy. Today’s research teams are studying potential treatments, including new medications and new surgical options. A variety of clinical trials and other clinical studies may be available to you at Washington University.

For pediatric patients, Washington University/St. Louis Children’s Hospital is home to one of the largest and most advanced pediatric epilepsy surgery centers in the nation.  The Department of Neurosurgery offers care for both adults and children with medically intractable seizures and provides a full range of surgical options for intractable epilepsy, including

  • Implantable seizure-control devices
  • resection of seizure foci
  • vagal nerve stimulation

Epilepsy treatment options

Advanced technology is used for determining the source of seizures, including MRI and PET imaging. New operations and advances in computer software allow planning of neurosurgical procedures with minimal disruption of normal brain function.

  • The largest continuous-video EEG Epilepsy Monitoring Unit in the region
  • MRI-guided laser ablation
  • Video EEG
  • Signal analysis
  • Intracranial electrode mapping
  • Intraoperative monitoring
  • ictalSPECT imaging
  • High field-strength MRI scans
  • PET scans
  • SPECT scans
  • Cognitive/neuropsychological testing

Washington University neurosurgeons have a long tradition of using functional localization. Expanding on this tradition is the use of functional imaging combined with intraoperative mapping to safely remove lesions in or near critical brain areas essential for language and motor skills.

The Comprehensive Epilepsy Center offers a range of treatments to help control seizures, from the simple to the more advanced, including investigational treatments not offered elsewhere. Medications help control some seizures, but up to 30 percent of all seizure patients do not benefit significantly from medications. In those cases, a surgical approach may be warranted.

Other options include:

  • Minimally invasive treatment options
  • Clinical trials for new anti-epileptic medications

Clint’s story: how surgery freed him from seizures

Clint McMurphy from Makanda, IL was diagnosed with grand mal seizures and epilepsy at the age of 3. His doctors had it under control with medication most of his life, but by the time Clint was in his upper 20s, the seizures became uncontrollable, often making him lose consciousness. 

Neurosurgeon Eric Leuthardt, MD, performed a focal resection, removing the tissue from Clint’s left temporal lobe that was responsible for epileptic seizures. 

“My life has changed drastically since the surgery,” says Clint. “Just the other day, I hit day 1,000 from my last seizure. There is no fear in going out to a movie, going out on the town, going to play a pool tournament and worrying about having a seizure.”