The FDA has approved a new device to treat patients with epilepsy. The device called RNS Simulator is like a tiny computer that sits under the patient’s skull and tracks brain activity. The device constantly monitors brain activity and shoots off an electric signal when it senses that something isn’t right.
This new device was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for people whose epilepsy has not responded favorably to drug treatments. The device is made by a company named NeuroPace. The company is based in Mountain View, California. NeuroPace says each device will cost between $35,000 and $40,000.
People with epilepsy have a medical condition that produces unwarranted seizures. These seizures are known to affect a variety of mental and physical functions. It’s also known as seizure disorder. When a person has two or more seizures that were unprovoked, they are considered to have epilepsy.
A seizure occurs when a brief, but strong surge of electrical activity affects portions or even all of the brain. Simply stated it’s when groups of neurons abnormally fire off. Just because someone has a seizure they aren’t automatically classified as an epileptic. One in 10 adults will have a seizure at some point during their life
This new medical device can detect when these problems are about to occur in the brain; it will respond by firing electrical signals through wires that are implanted in order to stop the seizure before it happens. The neurostimulator is connected to one or two electrodes (or wires) that are placed within the brain, or on the brain’s surface; where the seizures are suspected to originate.
There are other medical devices that have been used for some forms of epilepsy but the RNS Simulator starts working before the seizure happens in order to advert it. Once it senses a seizure is on the verge it delivers an electrical simulation to normalize brain activity before the patient experiences the actual seizure.
A Neurologist at the Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville spoke very highly of the new device. Dr. Joseph Neimat said he thinks this new treatment is substantial. This new device is the first FDA approved brain implant for epilepsy sufferers. It’s the first actual implant that responds to activity of the brain.
Dr. Neimat said that a great portion of the epileptic community responds well to medication but there are those that don’t. When drug treatment fails for these patients the next recommendation they receive is to seek an evaluation for surgery. Dr. Neimat says that with a significant portion of the patients that are evaluated for surgery they run into a problem where a surgical process wouldn’t be safe. The spots on the brain where the seizures originate play a part in whether or not they can operate in that area safely.
According to Dr. Neimat, this is still not a cure to epilepsy. He said there is a percentage of patients that are free of seizures with the device but it’s a small percentage. For the majority of patients it simply reduces the number of seizures they experience.
The use of implants isn’t a totally new concept when it comes to treating neurological problems. Implants are already being used on patients to treat illnesses such as dystonia and Parkinson’s disease.
The most common problems found during clinical tests of the device were batteries that died too quickly and infections at the implant site.
The FDA has approved the new device called the RNS Simulator; which is designed to help patients with epilepsy. The device is like a tiny computer that sits under the patient’s skull that tracks and monitors brain activity. In order to arrest a seizure it shoots off an electric signal when it senses that something isn’t right.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)