Ohio ó After marking Hanukkah earlier this month, Laura Hood
is celebrating what she considers her personal miracle.
2007, Hood had suffered from debilitating seizures that a
powerful mix of medications couldnít control.
47, is one of the first people in the nation to get a new
device implanted in her brain that monitors for signs of
seizures and sends impulses directly to the source to quiet
undergoing brain surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in April,
Hood suffered seizure activity as often as five times a day.
experiences two or three auras a month that end before a full
feel it coming on very faintly and then it stops," she
NeuroPace RNS System is a "smart device" that
monitors the brainís activity, interprets the signals and
provides stimulation when needed for patientsí intractable
NeuroPace RNS is an improvement over other systems that
provide stimulation without regard to the individualís
unique brain activity, said Dr. Dileep R. Nair, section head
of adult epilepsy at the Cleveland Clinic and an investigator
in the trial for the device.
teach the device to look for the specific pattern that patient
has thatís associated with a seizure," Nair said.
"We try to stop that activity from moving anywhere
than 2 million Americans have epilepsy, a neurological
condition with unpredictable seizures, or sudden surges of
electrical activity in the brain, according to the Epilepsy
majority of people can control their epilepsy with
medications, Nair said. But for about 30 percent of patients,
anti-seizure drugs alone arenít effective.
this group, the options really have been to see if they are
epilepsy surgery candidates," he said.
resecting (or cutting out) the portion of the brain where the
seizures originate isnít always possible, particularly if
the region is vital for movement or speech or if multiple
parts of the brain are involved, Nair said.
Hood, her seizures began about six months after she and her
husband, Michael, got married at a local temple, where they
met. She was a Hebrew teacher and he was a building manager.
the hospital after her first seizure, she struggled to
remember recent events and important people in her life, even
is that nice man?" she asked her mother, Elaine
next several years, medications failed to control her
seizures, including a major episode that caused her to go into
day, she experienced auras, a strange feeling "like a
very, very horrific dream youíre having," she said.
"You can feel it coming on your body."
surgery to remove the portion of her brain where the seizures
started wasnít an option because that region is responsible
for her memory.
they removed a portion, then she would have no short-term
memory at all," her husband said.
quit her job in sales, gave up driving and began staying close
to home for fear of having a seizure or frightening aura.
miss working so much," she said.
relied on her husband, mother and longtime family friend Micki
Wise of Akron to take her to and from appointments and other
doctors at the Cleveland Clinic said a new device might help
her, she and her family were eager to try it. She became the
first patient at the hospital to get the NeuroPace RNS after
it earned Food and Drug Administration approval.
was glad there was an option," Hood said.
NeuroPace RNS can be offered only at advanced epilepsy
centers, such as the Cleveland Clinic, that can conduct
invasive brain testing in which electrodes temporarily are
implanted in the brain to pinpoint seizure activity.
a whole process that leads up to seeing if a patient is even a
candidate," Nair said.
device consists of a stimulator implanted in the skull under
the scalp and leads imbedded in the brain. Up to two focal
points for seizure activity can be targeted.
is held against the scalp to transfer data wirelessly from the
NeuroPace RNS to a computer so it can be analyzed by doctors
and adjusted as needed. A specialized magnet also can be waved
by the head to "mark" in the data when the patient
experiences seizure activity.
neurostimulator costs about $37,000, not including the surgery
and necessary pre-testing, according to a NeuroPace
spokesperson. Most major insurers, including Medicare, cover
battery lasts about three years before it must be replaced.
clinical study, 55 percent of patients with the NeuroÄ®Pace
RNS System had their seizure frequency reduced by 50 percent
or more over a two-year period after getting the device, Nair
were able to offer something for patients who have a very
devastating epilepsy who had no other options," he said.
"This is an example of a new generation of devices."
husband said theyíre hopeful her doctors soon can wean her
off some of her medicines, which make her groggy all the time.
a real-life miracle," Wise said.