First Patient Receives ANT-DBS for Epilepsy Procedure

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Steven Rennie’s journey with epilepsy began at age 24 when he experienced his first seizure while sleeping. His mother discovered him having the seizure, and she rushed him to the nearest emergency room. He spent the next year seizure-free before having his second exactly one year to the day after his first. Shortly afterward, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder, affecting 3.4 million people in the United States. It is a disorder where nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, resulting in seizures, or periods of unusual behavior and sometimes loss of awareness.

A Long Journey

In the time since his diagnosis, Steven had experienced more than 200 seizures, sometimes up to eight in one day. While some were severe and debilitating, others were so mild that he wasn’t even aware he was having a seizure. “The seizures were hit-or-miss, so I underwent surgery to place electrodes on my brain for my doctors to monitor my brain activity when a seizure occurred,” Steven says. “For two weeks, I did not have a single seizure.” Steven had the electrodes removed, and the day after he went home, he had another seizure. For many epilepsy patients, medication or a Vagus Nerve Stimulator can provide a significant reduction in the frequency and severity of seizures. For Steven, these provided only moderate relief, so it was clear he needed a different option. The Henry Ford team recommended ANT-DBS (anterior nucleus of the thalamus deep brain stimulation), a procedure where targeted electrodes are implanted in the brain. These are attached to a pacemaker-like internal pulse generator, which is implanted in the chest. The two pieces work together to deliver mild electrical stimulation to specific areas of the brain to help control seizures. “From the initial clinical trial that was done in the U.S., long-term results showed that 70 percent of patients had a greater than 50 percent reduction in how frequently they were having seizures,” says Jason Schwalb, M.D., Surgical Director of the Movement Disorder and Comprehensive Epilepsy Centers at Henry Ford Health System. In February, at the age of 32, Steven underwent the ANT-DBS procedure for his epilepsy, which was the first one completed in Michigan. Dr. Schwalb, with help from the team at the Henry Ford Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, implanted the targeted electrodes into Steven’s brain and the internal pulse generator into his chest. “We are optimistic that Steven will see significant improvement from ANT-DBS,” Dr. Schwalb says. “However, it may take a couple of years to determine exactly how effective it is for him.”

Hope for The Future

Now that Steven has an ANT-DBS system implanted, he looks forward to seeing what this can do for him. “I believe this is going to work for me,” Steven says. “I’ve done a lot of research and Henry Ford has the only doctors in the state who have been trained in this, and they have supported me every step of the way.

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