While about 80 percent of people with epilepsy gain significant relief from drug therapy, the remaining 20 percent have seizures that cannot be controlled by medications. Many of these people have a particular type of epilepsy called partial epilepsy. A new study shows that people with partial epilepsy often have seizures controlled by medications for years before their seizures become drug-resistant. The study also found that periods when seizures stopped for a year or more are common in these patients.
"This study opens the door for early identification of patients who will later develop drug-resistant partial epilepsy, which may in turn allow us to identify ways of preventing some forms of epilepsy from ever becoming drug-resistant," says lead author Anne T. Berg, Ph.D., of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, who is part of a large multicenter team directed by Susan Spencer, M.D., at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and appears in the January 28, 2003, issue of Neurology.*
In the new study, researchers looked at patients who had surgery for drug-resistant partial epilepsy to identify factors that predict when seizures will become intractable, or no longer controllable with medications. They also studied the incidence of previous seizure-free periods in this group. Partial epilepsy results from abnormal neuronal activity that originates in a single part of the brain, usually in one of the temporal lobes.
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