Xavier Horton is the very first patient of epilepsy to receive the deep brain stimulation in Alabama. He has implanted in his chest, a small piece of the electrical stimulator with a CPU. Horton developed seizures of epilepsy in 2006 and underwent surgery for determining the region of the brain causing these seizures.
The neurology team of Horton first mentioned DBS in the year 2016 when it was still in its experimental stage. It was approved in 2018.
“The neurostimulator supplies an electric current that disrupts the electrical activity responsible for triggering the seizures, basically interrupting a seizure before it can get started,” said Dr. Jerzy Szaflarski. “The path of the electrical impulses that trigger seizures frequently passes through the anterior thalamic nucleus, so it’s the most appropriate target to intercept and modify those impulses via the current from the stimulator.”
“We employ new techniques of magnetic resonance imaging for planning and precisely targeting the nucleus in our surgical approach,” said an assistant professor, Nicole Bentley. “We then merge the MRI images with a CT scan done in the operating room to place the electrodes in the best location for maximum effect.”
“These are small seizures, and I might have several a month,” explained Horton. “They might last a few seconds, or last for more than a minute. I could be in the middle of a conversation and would space out. I’d be unable to talk or respond to people, while they wouldn’t be aware that I was having a seizure. I could see them looking at me, but I would not be able to respond. It was uncomfortable and awkward.”
“We anticipate a reduction of seizures of 60-70 percent,” explained Szaflarski. “If he has five a month, the DBS system might reduce that to just one per month. Adjustments in medication might also help reduce the frequency. There is evidence that the repeated application of the current over time could also reduce the number of seizures even more.”
“It’s not a cure in most cases, but it is an option for treatment,” said Bentley.
“Medication is the first treatment; but if those fail and seizures cannot be localized to one specific area, DBS surgery may be an option. For some patients, there are no other viable options.”
“DBS is the newest technique; but all of these are options, depending on the needs of the patient,” added Szaflarski.