CAMC’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) is a place where doctors can pinpoint areas of the brain causing seizures for one purpose: to help patients become seizure-free.
Epilepsy is a debilitating disorder where clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally, which results in convulsions, muscle spasms or loss of consciousness.
“Epilepsy is not just a medical disease – it has many other consequences in patients’ lives. They cannot drive, sometimes they cannot think, and it can be very difficult for them to maintain a job,” said David Gloss, MD, medical director of CAMC’s neurodiagnostics unit who is board certified in epilepsy. “It’s our job to turn that around so they can engage fully in their lives – so they can be part of the occupation they want, so they can drive – all simple things, but very important, life-changing things.”
The first step is continuous EEG monitoring, which is a noninvasive test that records electrical patterns in the brain.
“A traditional EEG lasts about 30 minutes and gives us a snapshot of the brain’s activity during a short time period, but it may not provide enough information to fully understand the nature of seizures or treat them adequately,” Gloss said. “In the EMU, patients are in a safe and comfortable environment where they are closely monitored over a longer period of time as we look for changes in brain activity. This helps us to identify areas of the brain causing the seizures so we can provide the most effective, safest treatment.”
CAMC’s five-bed, inpatient EMU helps doctors accurately diagnose or rule out epilepsy for people who have experienced a seizure or for those when the diagnosis is uncertain.
“It’s important to distinguish between a patient with epilepsy who needs to be on seizure medication and a patient who has had a single seizure and usually does not need medication,” said Samip Borad, MD, who is board certified in epilepsy. “Being evaluated in the EMU helps us figure that out.”
The EMU also serves patients already diagnosed with epilepsy who may need adjustments to their medications or want to explore other treatment options.
“An EMU is a very important part of epilepsy care,” Gloss said. “Approximately one third of patients with epilepsy cannot be seizure free with medicines alone. For those patients, there are other things we can consider. Being evaluated in the EMU is a critical step in considering those possibilities.”
CAMC’s EMU features state-of-the-art digital equipment and is staffed 24-hours a day, seven days a week by fellowship trained and board certified neurologists and epileptologists (neurologists with special training in epilepsy and seizures), along with a highly-trained EEG staff. There are also three mobile EEG units for monitoring patients in intensive care areas and other hospital settings.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological problem affecting one in 26 people – only migraine, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease occur more frequently. Treatment options range from medications and dietary changes to seizure-controlling devices and surgery.
“There are very few areas in neurology where it’s our job to make people’s lives significantly better,” Gloss said. “Much of what we see is after something happens, when it’s up to us to make a process slow down or not make it worse. With epilepsy, our job is to make it better.”
CAMC’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit is located on the fourth floor of CAMC General Hospital. For more information, call CAMC Neurology at (304) 388-6441.