“Knowing when a seizure might happen could dramatically improve the quality of life and independence of people with epilepsy,” Cook, who is also the Director of Neurology at St Vincent’s Hospital, told the University of Melbourne. His research was published today in the international medical journal, Lancet Neurology.
Cook and his team, with Professors Terry O’Brien and Sam Berkovic, worked with researchers at the Seattle-based company, NeuroVista, who developed a device which could be implanted between the skull and brain surface to monitor long-term electrical signals in the brain (EEG data), Melbourne said.
The University of Melbourne went on to say the researchers worked together to develop a second device implanted under the chest, which transmitted electrodes recorded in the brain to a hand-held device, providing a series of lights warning patients of the high (red), moderate (white), or low (blue), likelihood of having a seizure in the hours ahead.
The two-year study included 15 people with epilepsy aged between 20 and 62 years, who experienced between two and 12 seizures per month and had not had their seizures controlled with existing treatments, the university said. For the first month of the trial the system was set purely to record EEG data, which allowed Cook and his team to construct individual algorithms of seizure prediction for each patient, Melbourne noted.
The system correctly predicted seizures with a high warning, 65 per cent of the time, and worked to a level better than 50 per cent in 11 of the 15 patients. Eight of the 11 patients had their seizures accurately predicted between 56 and 100 per cent of the time, the study led by the University of Melbourne School of Medicine showed.
Epilepsy is the second most common neurological disease after stroke, affecting over 60 million people worldwide. Up to 40 percent of people are unable to control their seizures with existing treatments.
“One to two per cent of the population has chronic epilepsy and up to 10 per cent of people will have a seizure at some point in their lives, so it’s very common. It’s debilitating because it affects young people predominantly and it affects them often across their entire lifespan,” Cook told the university.
“The problem is that people with epilepsy are, for the most part, otherwise extremely well. So their activities are limited entirely by this condition, which might affect only a few minutes of every year of their life, and yet have catastrophic consequences like falls, burns and drowning,” the Chair of Medicine told the University of Melbourne.
Cook hopes to replicate the findings of the study in larger clinical trials, and is optimistic the technology will lead to improved management strategies for epilepsy in the future, Melbourne said.