Epilepsy & Seizures

Epilepsy affects about three million people in the United States, and doctors diagnose about 200,000 new cases each year. About 20 percent of people with epilepsy have intractable seizures, or seizures that are not controlled with medication. The Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center gives hope to people living with epilepsy and seizure disorder—especially those with difficult-to-control forms of epilepsy.

We are the only Level IV Specialized Epilepsy Center in the state. This certification means we provide highly advanced care that includes:

  • A multispecialty team of board certified epileptologists, or neurologists who specialize in the treatment of epilepsy, and neurosurgeons
  • The most comprehensive diagnostic testing available
  • Advanced monitoring capabilities
  • A broad range of treatment options
  • Access to emerging treatment options through involvement in clinical trials

Our nationally-recognized epilepsy specialists are pioneering innovative treatments for seizures, including seizures types that have not responded to traditional treatment. The IU Health Neuroscience Center offers the most sophisticated diagnostic technology available, and the latest medical and surgical treatment options.

If you experience a seizure, your neurologist may recommend an electroencephalography (EEG) of the brain. For many people, this test can diagnose epilepsy and help experts plan appropriate treatment. For individuals whose seizures have no known cause, and for people whose seizures cannot be controlled with medication, additional testing may be required. For these challenging cases, the IU Health Neuroscience Center provides continuous video EEG monitoring.

Continuous video EEG monitoring measures brain-wave activity over a 24-hour period, allowing doctors to observe seizures in real time. This helps doctors determine what kind of seizure a person is having and where the seizure is occurring in the brain. Once a diagnosis is made, our epilepsy experts can develop a more individualized care plan. Monitoring units are located at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital and Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

Additional diagnostic services include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
  • Functional MRI scans
  • Neuropsychological testing
  • Psychiatric evaluation and management
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
  • Intracranial electroencephalography (EEG), in which electrodes are placed directly on the brain’s surface to record electrical activity and generate more accurate studies than traditional EEG

For people whose seizures cannot be controlled with medication, surgery can be a safe and effective treatment option. The IU Health Neuroscience Center provides an experienced neurosurgical team and advanced surgical procedures, including the ones listed below. 

Lobectomy & Multiple Subpial Transection

In a lobectomy, our neurosurgeons remove a small section of the brain where seizures originate. This procedure is a very effective treatment for people with single focus seizures, or seizures resulting from abnormal activity in one area of the brain.

The American Epilepsy Society, American Academy of Neurology and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons recommend that people be evaluated for this surgery when their seizures originate in the temporal lobe (the front part of the brain) and cannot be controlled with medicine. Our experienced team of neurosurgeons has successfully treated more than 400 patients with temporal lobectomies.

In a multiple subpial transection surgical procedure, our neurosurgeons make tiny incisions in the section of the brain where seizures originate. Cutting the nerve fibers in this portion of the brain interrupts electrical activity and can greatly reduce or eliminate seizures. This can be an effective treatment for people whose seizures originate in a section of the brain that cannot be removed safely.

Vagal Nerve Stimulation

In vagal nerve stimulation, our neurosurgeons implant a tiny device under the skin near the collarbone. The device sends electrical impulses to one of the central nerves, which send information to and from the brain. Vagal nerve stimulation may be an effective treatment for people who are not good candidates for lobectomy and whose seizures cannot be controlled with medication.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is used to treat tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease and is being studied as an effective, alternative treatment for epilepsy. In DBS, a small device is implanted near the collarbone or in the skull, and connected to a thin, electrical wire. The tip of the wire, the lead, is implanted deep within the brain and delivers electrical stimulation at preset intervals. The electrical stimulation interrupts the activity of the thalamus and can reduce seizure activity.

The IU Health Neuroscience Center is at the forefront of epilepsy care, participating in groundbreaking studies on DBS and paving the way for new treatments for people with epilepsy.

In the SANTE clinical trial, Indiana University Health Epilepsy specialists studied the use of DBS in patients with epilepsy that cannot be controlled with medicine. IU Health was one of only 17 medical centers participating in the trial. Patients underwent surgery to have two electrodes implanted on both sides of the thalamus in the brain. The neurostimulator then delivered electrical stimulation to the thalamus at preset times. Participants saw their seizure activity drop by almost half.

In the NeuroPace RNS clinical trial, the neurostimulator recorded and monitored electrical stimulation in the brain so IU Health neurologists could detect patterns of seizure activity. The neurostimulator was then set to deliver electrical stimulation when the seizure pattern began, before it spread to other sections of the brain and before symptoms appeared.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

Gamma Knife is not a knife at all, but rather a very precise form of radiation therapy. IU Health was one of seven U.S. centers to participate in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study to determine the effectiveness of Gamma Knife treatment for certain seizures. The clinical trial was so successful NIH is sponsoring another trial at IU Health and several other U.S. medical centers to study the further use of Gamma Knife in epilepsy treatment.

Learn more about epilepsy.