Neurostimulation for refractory epilepsyNeurostimulation for refractory epilepsy
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Acta neurologica Belgica. - Bruxelles
103(2003):4, p. 212-217
Neurostimulation is an emerging treatment for refractory epilepsy. To date the precise mechanism of action remains to be elucidated. Better insight in the mechanism of action may identify seizure types or syndromes that respond to such a treatment and may guide the search for optimal stimulation parameters and finally improve clinical efficacy. In the past ten years some progress has been made through neurophysiological, neuroanatomical, neurochemical and cerebral blood flow studies in patients and animals undergoing vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). Interesting results have been found in VNS-treated patients that underwent evoked potential measurements, cerebrospinal fluid investigation, neuropsychological testing and PET SPECT and fMRI testing. Desynchronisation of abnormal synchronous epileptic activity is one of the hypotheses on the mode of action that might primarily be responsible for an anti-seizure effect. There is however increasing evidence from research and clinical observation that VNS might establish a true and long-term anti-epileptic effect. It has been shown that VNS influences neurotransmission in the brain and provokes long-term changes in cerebral blood flow in areas crucial for epileptogenesis such as the thalamus and medial temporal lobe structures. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) for epilepsy has regained interest. Central nervous system structures known to play a key role in the epileptogenic network such as the thalamus and subthalamic nucleus have been targeted. Another approach is to target the ictal onset zone such as the medial temporal lobe. At Ghent University Hospital 10 patients have been treated with long-term amygdalohippocampal DBS. Several hypotheses have been raised for the mechanism of action of DBS for refractory seizures. Seizure reduction may be due to a microlesion caused by electrode insertion or by provoking a reversible functional lesion due to the effect of electrical current on hyperexcitable tissue. Neurophysiological techniques such as evoked potentials monitoring and intraoperative single unit potential recordings may guide correct electrode placement, individual DBS titration and elucidation of the mechanims of action of DBS for epilepsy.