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Epilepsy Clinical Trial Restores Patient’s Quality of Life

“Imagine having to hang the phone up on your mother to avoid scaring her with your incoherent babbling; randomly smacking your lips as though you’re starving; feeling like you’ve had your freedom snatched from you when you suddenly are no longer allowed to drive a car. Epilepsy introduced these terrifying realities into my life and so many more.”

Lisa Egli wrote those words in a thank-you letter to her medical team at Hoag’s Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute. Hoag is one of only three sites in the western United States selected to participate in a clinical trial for a pioneering, minimally invasive surgical procedure that shows promise in relieving medicine-resistant epilepsy seizures in patients like Lisa.

Today, the fear, disruption and constraints that Lisa described in her letter are gone.

“Since my surgery [in 2019], I’ve been seizure free,” she wrote. “[I am] less scared about what each day may hold for me and excited about the possibility that one day I might be able to drive again and retire my crazy pill organizer!”

The SLATE clinical trial involves the Medtronic Visualase MRI-guided laser ablation system, which directly targets and destroys the source of the seizures in the brain. The procedure is the first major innovation in nearly 50 years for people with medication-resistant seizures. Rather than face a highly invasive surgery, long recovery and risk of severe complications, patients undergoing this procedure experience minimal side effects and a one-day hospital stay.

“We are proud to be on the forefront of offering minimally invasive, safer options for patients who are looking to avoid large, morbid open procedures,” said neurosurgeon and principal investigator Vivek Mehta, M.D. “In order to meet the needs of people with epilepsy, we need to modernize approaches that are more patient-friendly. This is one of the promising options to replace an invasive approach that had a lot of side effects, and we are excited by the data so far.”

“Over time, people with medication-resistant epilepsy become progressively more disabled. They’re not able to keep their jobs, or drive or maintain relationships,” Dr. Mehta said. “If we can cure them of their seizures, we can give them their life back.”

Lisa said she was one of those patients. Her memory loss was becoming more pronounced, she wasn’t able to drive and she lived in fear of experiencing a grand mal seizure at work. She and her husband took six months to decide to participate in the study, and she says she is so glad that she did.

“It was the right the decision,” she wrote, describing the surgery as “the greatest medical gift I’ve ever been granted.”

Hoag has is consistently ranked among the top 50 hospitals in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery. The hospital has been designated a Center of Excellence in Robotic Surgery (COERS) from the Surgical Review Corporation. And Hoag is accredited by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers as a level 4 epilepsy center, meaning it has the professional expertise and facilities to provide the highest level medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy.

The hospital’s track record of excellence is one reason Hoag was chosen to participate in the study.

“Patients need a well-trained epileptologist to tease out what types of seizures they are having and what treatments they need,” said David Millett, M.D., Director of the Epilepsy Program at Hoag. “For some patients, surgery is the best option. Hoag was chosen to participate in this study because our expertise in identifying and treating epilepsy is among the most trusted in the nation.”

Drs. Millett and Mehta said they hope the study will result in a sea change for the estimated 1 million patients whose epilepsy cannot be controlled by medication.

“We are aiming to make surgery scarless, less scary and with an easier recovery,” Dr. Mehta said. “We are excited to be a part of this study and to pioneer an effective option for our patients with epilepsy.”

To learn more about the SLATE trial, call 949-764-8319.