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The ‘Complex Set of Tools’ Needed When Epilepsy Is More Than Repeated Seizures

April 02, 2021

Unlike the Hollywood depiction where people thrash about on the ground, their heads lolling to the side, most seizures go unnoticed — even to the people having them.

“The most common type of seizure is called a ‘blank staring seizure.’ The memory centers of the brain are involved so the person is not making a memory at the time. You wouldn’t even know you had a seizure afterward,” said Dr. Gabriel Martz, medical director of the Epilepsy Center, part of the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute. “Many are mild enough that you don’t even know.”

The defining symptom of epilepsy is the seizure, triggered by short circuits in the brain’s normal electrical patterns at a given moment, said Dr. Martz. Typically, these seizures involve the person staring and losing awareness of what’s going on around them.

Seizures occurring repeatedly over time indicate the person has epilepsy.

“In addition (to seizures), people with epilepsy will often see other kinds of challenges such as emotional disturbances and learning difficulties,” Dr. Martz said.

Such situations warrant broad-based expertise such as that available at the Epilepsy Center so the patient can enjoy the greatest possible quality of life. The Center, which will soon have eight locations across the state for patient convenience, recently earned accreditation as a Level 4 Epilepsy Center, the highest possible, from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC).

“This puts a stamp on the fact that we’ve achieved excellence of care, putting our program among the elite centers in the country,” Dr. Martz noted.

NAEC accreditation, one of only two awarded in Connecticut, highlights the breadth of services available at the Epilepsy Center, where Dr. Martz said the infrastructure has been put into place to provide “the highest level and most complex care” for epilepsy patients.

This “enormously complex set of tools” for helping epilepsy, he said, includes:

  • Advanced forms of intensive neurodiagnostic testing and monitoring.
  • Neuropsychological and psychosocial treatment.
  • Surgical treatments.

“People can access comprehensive care for the emotional and learning challenges, and medication optimization to bring the most to their lives, in addition to stopping their seizures,” he said.

More than 3 million Americans have some degree of epilepsy. Often, medication can control the seizures but, for some, medication does not work, causing a condition called refractory epilepsy. Having access to other services, including surgery, becomes a key for these patients to achieve quality of life, said Dr. Martz.

“We strive to bring the best care possible to anyone in Connecticut,” Dr. Martz said. “Level 4 recognition is a sign that we have a lot of other treatment options, mostly surgical, and can provide any care people might need for epilepsy.”

Hartford HealthCare Epilepsy Center

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