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Epilepsy

At the AHN Neuroscience Institute, we provide comprehensive diagnosis and treatment services to address every aspect of your epilepsy care in one place. Our epilepsy specialists use advanced technology to give you a precise diagnosis and guide you to the right treatments.

Uncontrolled seizures caused by epilepsy are disruptive. At AHN, we provide the resources you need to manage the physical and emotional effects of epilepsy so you can live your best life.

More control over epilepsy

AHN now has more specialists, more medications, and more minimally invasive treatments for epilepsy. 

What is epilepsy?

Misfiring nerve cells in the brain can result in seizures. Epilepsy is a brain disorder marked by recurring (more than one) seizures.

At AHN Neuroscience Institute, our team of epilepsy specialists uses sophisticated diagnostic tests to determine what is causing your seizures. We then work with you to find the best therapies and treatments to help you manage your symptoms so you can focus on enjoying life.

Causes of epilepsy

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurring seizures. Things that can cause epilepsy include:

  • Abnormal blood vessels in the brain.
  • Brain injuries.
  • Brain tumors.
  • Dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Infections like a brain abscess, meningitis, encephalitis, and AIDS.
  • Stroke.
  • Use of certain medications and drugs, such as some antidepressants, cocaine, and amphetamines. 

Epilepsy symptoms

People experience seizures differently. Common symptoms include:

  • Staring blankly
  • Twitching or jerking movements that you can’t control
  • Violent muscle spasms
  • Confusion or anxiety
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

Diagnosing epilepsy

Our care team specializes in treating patients with epilepsy. We get to know your entire medical history and any life experiences that may put you at higher risk for epilepsy, such as illegal substance use or repeated head injuries from sports. After a thorough physical examination, your physician may recommend one or more tests, including:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): This test measures your brain’s electrical activity, using tiny electrodes attached to your head.
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): This specialized MRI can pinpoint the parts of the brain responsible for speech and movement.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Physicians may use this advanced imaging test, which produces detailed images of internal structures, to look for other causes of your symptoms.
  • Neuropsychological testing: Memory and other cognitive tests can help physicians determine which part of the brain may be causing your symptoms. These tests can also flag emotional difficulties, such as anxiety, that we can address to improve your quality of life.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET): This imaging test tells physicians how the brain metabolizes glucose, helping pinpoint areas that are not working properly.
  • Robotic stereoelectroencephalography (SEEG): With this surgical diagnosis tool, neurosurgeons use robotic assistance for precision and safety to place electrodes directly into the brain. These electrodes monitor electrical activity and determine which areas of the brain are creating seizures, and which can be removed safely. 

If your seizures persist after trying multiple treatments, your physician may ask you to undergo advanced testing in our Epilepsy Monitoring Unit so we can learn more about your symptoms. At this unit, located at Allegheny General Hospital, you receive care from dedicated nurses and doctors who are trained in epilepsy.

We use advanced technology, such as EEG, to record as much detail as possible about your seizures, in a safe and controlled environment. We also have a ROSA ONE® Brain robotic platform, which helps surgeons plan and perform precise minimally invasive neurosurgeries for epilepsy.

Get comprehensive epilepsy treatment at AHN

We use the latest treatments, which may include medication, surgery, or both. Your care team will tailor a treatment plan that addresses your needs. Our goal is to find therapies that manage your symptoms and maximize your quality of life.

We may recommend one or more of these treatments:

Medication

Medications effectively control seizures for two-thirds of people with epilepsy. We offer more than 25 different epilepsy medications that help treat seizures. Sometimes finding the right combination of medications and dosage may take a few months. Your physician will work closely with you to determine which combination is best for you. 

We participate in multiple research studies that pursue new treatments for epilepsy. We can offer our patients the latest treatments, such as new medications, before they are widely available.

Surgery

If you have recurrent seizures despite trying at least two different anti-epileptic medicines, then you may be a candidate for surgery. Our fellowship-trained surgeons have expertise in performing intricate robotic and minimally invasive surgical procedures to treat patients whose symptoms are not controlled with medications. Our advanced testing helps us determine which part of the brain causes your seizures, so we can use the most effective surgical approach. 

Surgical treatment options include:

  • Brain resectioning: During this surgery, the neurosurgeon will remove a small part of the brain causing seizures.
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS): Electrodes are placed in a precise location in the brain and a device is connected and implanted in the skin under the clavicle, like a pacemaker. This device stimulates the brain to help reduce seizure activity. 
  • Laser ablation: For patients whose epilepsy comes from areas deeper in the brain, our neurosurgeons can use a thin laser to ablate, or remove, the troublesome area.
  • Responsive neuromodulation (RNS): This procedure is the most recent in brain stimulation for epilepsy. During this procedure, an FDA-approved device is implanted onto the brain’s surface. It then sends electrical impulses to the area of the brain causing seizures and prevents them from occurring or spreading. 
  • Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS): A device about the size of a silver dollar is implanted under the skin during this procedure. A thin wire is then placed on the vagus nerve in the neck and electrical energy is sent through this nerve to the affected areas of the brain causing seizures. 

Contact us

To schedule an appointment or learn more about services at the AHN Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, call (412) 359-8850.

If you're an existing patient, you can also call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 in Pittsburgh or request an appointment with AHN neuroscience services.

Find us

AHN Comprehensive Epilepsy Center
320 East North Avenue, Suite 206
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
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ROSA ONE® Brain is a registered trademark of Zimmer Biomet and is used with permission.