Early Warnings from Brain Implants for Epilepsy Causing False Alarms

While almost 50 million people worldwide currently suffer from epilepsy, a third of them are not getting help preventing seizures from medications like Topamax. One method that seems to work, however, is to send a short electric pulse to the brain that stops the seizure just before it actually erupts. However, this brain implant does pose its own complications; namely, patients receive false alarms that cause the implant to act when nothing is happening.

As a means of correcting this problem, one engineer from Johns Hopkins has come up with a new seizure detection software that so far seems to drastically cut down the number of unnecessary electric pulses (false alarms) that patients used to get.

“These devices use algorithms — a series of mathematical steps — to figure out when to administer the treatment,” says Sridevi V. Sarma, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering. “They’re very good at detecting when a seizure is about to happen, but they also produce lots of false positives, sometimes hundreds in one day. If you introduce electric current to the brain too often, we don’t know what the health impacts might be. Also, too many false alarms can shorten the life of the battery that powers the device, which must be replaced surgically.”

So far, Sarma’s new software has been tested on real-time brain activity recordings that were taken from four different patients who currently are experiencing a resistance to drugs like Topamax. Recently, in a study published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior, her team explained that their new system was far superior to the other systems because it found actual seizures and experienced as much as 80 percent fewer false alarms. This testing showed that there may be groundbreaking results in the future.

“We’re making great progress in developing software that is sensitive enough to detect imminent seizures without setting off a large number of false alarms,” she said.

While there is still more work to be done to perfect the system, Sarma is hoping to have worked out all of the kinks within 2-4 years. So far, many epileptics are using drugs like Topamax or surgery to try to prevent their seizures, but these methods simply do not work for long-term results.

Topamax and other epilepsy drugs cause various side effects. For example, Topamax has been linked to birth defects in babies whose mothers take the drug while pregnant. Some of those birth defects linked to Topamax include PPHN, oral clefts, neural tube defects and heat, lung and brain defects. For this reason, many women may feel better treating their seizures with Sarma’s new implant.

If your baby was born with any of these birth defects after being exposed to Topamax during gestation, contact Greg Jones today for a free consultation. I am experienced at fighting Topamax lawsuits and may be able to help you recover money for your baby’s injuries.

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