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Implanted Device May Predict Epilepsy Seizures

Patients who don't respond to drugs might benefit, but larger trials needed

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"This study is an important first step," said Mehta, who was not involved in the research. "The next step would be to implant these in a larger sample of patients. And you need to see which groups of patients might be good candidates for this."

Mehta said someone who has seizures only once in a while might not get enough benefit to outweigh the downsides of false alarms, for example. And someone who has many seizures each month might get little added information from the warning system, he said.

It may be the people who fall in the middle -- who have disabling seizures at unpredictable intervals -- who would stand to benefit the most, he said.

But any benefits need to be weighed against the risks. Besides false alarms and unnecessary anxiety, the implant itself can cause problems. In this study, three patients had serious complications, including one with an infection and one whose chest device moved and caused her pain. Two patients ultimately had the implants removed.

Still, Mehta agreed that the technology could prove helpful to some people with epilepsy. If they know a seizure is coming, they might take an extra dose of their medication, for example.

An implanted device like this could also give patients and their doctors more information about their epilepsy, he added. In this study, the implants revealed that most patients were suffering more seizures than they thought; one patient who reported 11 a month was actually having more than 100.

In real life, Mehta said, it can be hard to know if you're feeling bad because of side effects from epilepsy medication or because you're having a lot of seizures. A device like this could help sort that out.

But what's still needed is evidence that this device does improve the quality of patients' lives, Mehta said.

The study was funded by NeuroVista, the Seattle-based company developing the technology. Several of Cook's co-researchers work for the company.

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