Seattle Children's using epilepsy lasers instead of scalpels

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by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 HealthLink

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KING5.com

Posted on October 22, 2013 at 4:41 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 24 at 11:03 AM

For those with epilepsy, medications don't always work and surgery can be too dangerous. Now there's an alternative: a laser. How the new technology changed the life of one local patient.

Dana Lockwood has led a cautious life due to epilepsy. The seizures can strike anytime.

“They feel like kind of a bizarre surge of mental energy,” said Lockwood. “I would get a little bit disoriented. Almost have a feeling of deja vu kind of.”

A week before he left for college, the big one hit. His mother was caught off guard.

“Having that happen was really very, very hard to think how he was going to go off to college now?”  said Karen Lockwood, Dana’s mother.

Lockwood did go off to college and graduated, but he had to take more and medication until he finally reached the maximum dosage.

“When his neurologist said there's really nothing more we can do,” said Karen Lockwood.

But there was something - something new.

“When we're coming in with the laser, we're coming from this direction and then we're coming to the deeper parts of the brain,” said Dr. Jeffrey Ojemann with Seattle Children’s.

Deeper areas, in Lockwood's case, where Dr. Ojemann says surgery would be too dangerous.

“The real estate, the importance of this area is very, very important, so anything that allows us to be less invasive in the is area is going to make the procedure much safer and potentially offer it to people who wouldn't want to take the risk of the more dangerous surgery,” said Dr. Ojemann.

Set up for the laser takes hours. A frame goes on the patients head.

"We'll make a small hole in the skull,” said Dr. Ojemann.

A catheter is threaded inside that hole and then rechecked in the MRI for accuracy. The margin of error is plus or minus one millimeter. The zap itself takes less than a minute.

“When I woke up from the operation, the first thing I asked my doctor was, ‘How successful were you?’ He said we got 100% of it removed, so we were more successful than we originally predicted,” said Lockwood.

Lockwood had the procedure in February and has no more seizures. And he has no more side effects from medication; the sleepiness, the lethargy are gone.

“I'm still trying to wrap my head around what it's like to be completely seizure free,” said Lockwood.

His mother says it's such a relief.

“I can see the difference in him and I think, ‘Wow.’ This is the most amazing thing not to see any seizures after all these years,” said his mom.

Lockwood can finally move on: look for a job, learn to drive.

“I definitely have a lot of catching up to do in life,” he said.

The laser is not an option for patients who need large amounts of brain tissue treated. Seattle Children’s is the first pediatric hospital in the West to offer the procedure.

Find more information on the procedure on the Seattle Children's website.

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