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Deep Brain Stimulation for Epilepsy at Emory Brain Health Center

First in the U.S. to use deep brain stimulation for epilepsy since commercial approval

Emory Brain Health Center was the first in the nation to use deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat a patient with medically refractory, or drug-resistant, epilepsy when it was commercially approved in 2018. The minimally invasive procedure uses an implanted device, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, to target specific areas of the brain.

In April 2018, the FDA granted pre-market approval for Medtronic DBS therapy as an adjunctive treatment for reducing the frequency of partial-onset seizures in individuals 18 years of age or older who are drug-resistant to three or more antiepileptic medications.

The approval was based on results from the SANTE trial (Stimulation of the Anterior Nucleus of the Thalamus in Epilepsy), where patients had a median seizure frequency reduction of 75 percent at seven years post-implant.

The commercial availability of DBS has provided an important surgical treatment option for patients who suffer from epilepsy and do not respond to medication.

Emory Epilepsy Center is currently the only center in Georgia using deep brain stimulation (DBS) to successfully treat generalized epilepsy.  

DBS to Treat Epilepsy

DBS is a minimally invasive surgical therapy that uses an implanted medical device to deliver electrical stimulation to precisely targeted areas of the brain as an adjunctive treatment for several neurological disorders.

DBS therapy for epilepsy delivers controlled electrical pulses to a target in the brain called the anterior nucleus of the thalamus (ANT), which is part of a network involved in seizures. ANT DBS has been shown to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of seizures and improve quality of life out to seven years. 

Robert E. Gross, MD, Ph.D., the MBNA Bowman Chair in Neurosurgery and professor, Emory University Department of Neurosurgery, served as a neurosurgical primary investigator for the SANTE trial. He was also the one who performed the first U.S. case at Emory University Hospital when the procedure was FDA approved and made available commercially. 

Two months post procedure, the patient's frequency of seizures had declined by more than 50 percent, and further improvement was to be expected after additional programming sessions. 

About the SANTE Trial

Antiepileptic drug (AED) medication is the primary treatment to control seizures; however, approximately one-third of individuals with epilepsy have seizures that do not successfully respond to AEDs. In the SANTE trial, all subjects had tried at least three AEDs and, on average, lived with epilepsy for 22 years prior to treatment with DBS.

The Medtronic DBS System for Epilepsy has demonstrated safety and effectiveness in patients who averaged six or more seizures per month over the three most recent months (with no more than 30 days between seizures) and has not been evaluated in patients with less frequent seizures.

To refer a patient to the Emory Epilepsy Center, or if you would like to speak with a member of our team, call the Emory Physician Consult Line at 404-778-5050. An Emory Registered Nurse (RN) will connect you directly to a specialist. You may also refer a patient by visiting and completing a referral form.

Emory Epilepsy Center is committed to the continued health and safety of all patients. During this time, we are taking all necessary precautions to screen for COVID-19 and to prevent its potential spread. We continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 situation and are working with experts throughout Emory Healthcare to keep your patients safe. For the most up-to-date information for our referring partners, click here.