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One-stop unit to diagnose, treat epilepsy

Epileptic fits with jerking are a frightening sight for onlookers, many of who are not aware of the simple measures that could ensure adequate protection to the patient in the grip of the convulsive seizure. Worse, in the absence of dedicated diagnostic and treatment centres, an epileptic attack is often not distinguished from a non-epileptic fit and hence, not addressed properly.

To plug that chasm, the neurology department of the Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, Calcutta, is coming up with a “one-stop epilepsy diagnosis-treatment-management unit”. To be commissioned by the end of next month, the speciality epilepsy clinic will be run two to three times a week in the evening, boasting “significant firsts” in diagnostic technology.

“We are introducing video-guided EEG and ambulatory EEG for the first time in Calcutta to evaluate patients with a greater degree of assurance, so that epilepsy can be accurately established before treatment commences,” says Amitabha Ghosh, head of the hospital’s neurology department. Ghosh maintains that in outpatient neurology practice worldwide, epilepsy is the “commonest disorder, next only to headache”.

The brain constantly sends electrical signals to the rest of the body, which control normal day-to-day functions. Sometimes, a sudden rush of these electrical signals may occur. If this rush is big enough and the discharges happen all at the same time, an epileptic fit may be seen. The video EEG time-locks the EEG graph with the patient’s symptoms, enabling the neurologist to see whether the attack is actually coming from a brain discharge.

The ambulatory EEG, done with a device strapped to the patient’s body, can also give valuable information to the doctor. “It is an essential ancillary diagnostic tool, helping us identify special situations, often when the patient is having an attack. Once diagnosed with certainty, a vast majority of epileptic fits can be well controlled or totally stopped by one or two medicines,” Ghosh observes.

Convulsive seizures persisting over a long period of time can lead to ‘epileptic status’, a medical emergency associated with both high mortality and high morbidity, warn doctors at the Bypass hospital. However, early identification hugely reduces chances of death or brain damage, they assure.

Rubbishing the notion that women suffering from seizures shouldn’t have children, Ghosh says: “A large majority of women with epilepsy have perfectly normal pregnancies and healthy children. It is, however, important for the patient to visit her obstetrician and neurologist regularly throughout the period of pregnancy, and not stop medicines without the doctor’s advice.”

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