Brain 'pacemaker' may prevent epileptic seizures
August 25, 1999
A vagus nerve stimulator implanted into the body gives periodic electrical stimulation to the brain to help prevent epileptic seizures.
Web posted at: 8:20 a.m. EDT (1220 GMT)
From Correspondent Jennifer Auther
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Nolan Hutain had to give up baseball
because of epilepsy, but a new brain pacemaker has provided
considerable relief and inspired the 12-year-old's dream to
return to the ball diamond.
Among 2 million Americans suffering from epilepsy, Nolan
knows all too well about the violent seizures associated with
the nervous system disorder.
"You see all these flashing things around you, but they're a
lot bigger. You can't really see that well -- blackouts -- you go
completely blind," he says.
Ten to 15 seizures a week caused Nolan to miss school
and fall behind. He had to drop baseball altogether.
Since he wasn't responding well to medication, his family
pursued a different medical route. He had a vagus nerve
stimulator implanted in his brain in June.
The $9,000 device is best described as a pacemaker for the
brain. To make it work, surgeons make a pocket in the chest
to hold a transmitter, called a NeuroCybernetic Prosthesis,
or NCP, according to Dr. Clarence Greene, a pediatric
Nolan Hutain places a magnet across his chest to lessen the severity of a seizure.
The vagus nerve stimulator has a generator similar to those
used in heart pacemakers. The NCP generator is computer-
controlled, and powered by a battery that can last up to five
Doctors use a computer to program doses of periodic
electrical stimulation to prevent seizures.
Nolan has another weapon if he feels the
onset of a seizure. When Nolan places a magnet across his
chest, an episode has a shorter duration and seems less
intense, says Dr. Mary Kay Dyes, a neurologist.
The NCP has been on the market for two years and implanted in
4,500 patients, mostly adults. For Nolan it means a chance to
live a more normal life. He hopes to regain enough control to
spend more time in school, and perhaps even play baseball
FDA OKs medical implant device for epilepsy
July 16, 1997
Study shows high fat, low carb diet helps epileptic children
December 8, 1998
Diet may help epileptics go seizure-free
January 31, 1996
Researchers isolate the rare epilepsy gene
July 19, 1996
Mental Health Net: Epilepsy Resources
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