An estimated 470,000 children nationwide are living with epilepsy, a common neurological disorder that causes recurring seizures. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, approximately 20-25% of children are unable to control their seizures with medication, which is described as drug-resistant or refractory epilepsy.
Our team of epileptologists work closely with a network of pediatric subspecialists to determine the best course of treatment for difficult to control seizures. We offer cutting-edge diagnostic testing and comprehensive treatment options which may include medical therapies, dietary treatment, and epilepsy surgery.
This Epilepsy Awareness Month, we’re sharing how vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy helped our patient, Alexa, get better control of her seizures and improve her quality of life.
Alexa’s Epilepsy Journey
At 4 months old, Alexa was diagnosed with epilepsy. As she got older, her seizures became more frequent and more involved.
“We would add more and more seizure medications as her seizures increased,” said Lidia, Alexa’s mom. “Unfortunately, we got to a point where the seizure medications were not controlling her seizures and she was having seizures on most days.”
That’s when Alexa’s doctor, pediatric neurologist Dr. Karen Keough, recommended VNS therapy to help manage Alexa’s seizures.
“I frequently recommend VNS therapy in cases like this, where seizures continue to cause hospitalizations and emergency room visits and many different medications have failed,” explains Dr. Keough. “Families are often nervous about going through surgery because we can’t predict how much the VNS will help, but so often I have families tell me they wish they had done this years ago.”
VNS Therapy for Drug-Resistant Epilepsy
At the age of 16, Alexa underwent epilepsy surgery to have a vagus nerve stimulation device implanted under the skin in her chest. The device is connected to the left vagus nerve in the neck and delivers mild pulses to the brain to help prevent seizures before they start and help stop them if they do.
Alexa’s mom says VNS Therapy has helped control Alexa’s seizures and allowed her to reduce her seizure medication.
“Now when Alexa has seizures, I can swipe the device with a magnet and her seizure will stop more promptly than before,” explains Lidia. “The magnet swipe stops her seizure faster than when I gave her the nasal rescue medication.”
Since Alexa is taking less medication, she is more awake and able to participate in school. Before, she would sleep during the school day because her medications made her tired.
Alexa’s mom hopes families considering VNS Therapy will talk to their doctor and consider the benefits for the entire family.
“It can improve the life of your child as well as the parents – we no longer have to see her suffer with seizures or live with the side effects of increased doses of medications, which can make children somnolent and inactive,” Lidia said.
At Pediatrix Child Neurology Consultants of Austin our priority is providing patients and their families the most convenient, comfortable, and positive experience while receiving expert care from highly experienced neurologists and epileptologists.