Lebanese Neurologist Gives Hope for Epilepsy Patients
Lebanese neurologist Lara Jehi has found, in a research study in the U.S., a solution for the youngest epilepsy patients for whom medication doesn't work, assuring that frontal lobe surgery can stop seizures -- in many cases forever.
"We have a chance with this surgery to really give people their life back," said Jehi, lead study author and director of the Cleveland Clinic Epilepsy Center, where about 100 pediatric surgeries are performed each year.
Doctors say the brain essentially rewires itself to compensate for the removed lobe or lobes. Where the seizure originates is essentially damaged and so removing it actually helps the health of the brain.
Jehi, a graduate of the American University of Beirut, conducted the research that made it possible for epilepsy patients to lead longer healthier lives. Her study looked at 158 patients over a 15 year period, and found that epileptic patients who opt to have frontal lobe surgery have an 80 percent chance of living seizure-free for the rest of their lives.
Epilepsy is a chronic medical condition marked by recurrent seizures, an altered brain function caused by abnormal, excessive or electrical discharges from brain cells.
Epilepsy affects 1 percent of the population, according to the Cleveland Clinic Epilepsy. About 1 in 4 patients do not respond to medication, and for them, a frontal lobectomy can provide a "cure."
Jehi added that the the frontal lobe part of the brain, which controls executive functions and language, was once considered "difficult to tackle.”
But she assured that patients who have surgery within five years of epilepsy onset have an 80 percent to 90 percent chance of being seizure-free for life, she said.
Surgery may sound daunting, but Jehi said the mortality rate is less than .02 percent. And the earlier it is done, the better the outcome.