Vice Chair of Faculty Affairs
Residency Program Director
Section Chief of Functional Neurosurgery
What is epilepsy?
A seizure is a brief, strong surge of abnormal electrical activity that affects part or all of the brain. A seizure can cause convulsions or loss of consciousness, and more subtle symptoms such as blank staring, lip smacking, or jerking movements of the arms and legs. In addition to epilepsy, seizures can also occur from high fevers, infection, alcohol and drug use, certain medications, or other medical conditions.
A single seizure does not mean that a person has epilepsy. Often, adult patients with epilepsy have the same type of seizure and symptoms during each episode. Epilepsy is two or more recurrent unprovoked seizures (chronic) from an underlying neurological condition. If you think you have had a seizure, contact your primary care provider right away.
Epilepsy Treatment at the UNC Epilepsy Center
UNC Epilepsy Center is committed to providing high quality comprehensive epilepsy care to patients in North Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic region. The UNC Epilepsy Center is designated as a level 4 epilepsy center, the highest designation, by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. UNC Neurology and UNC Neurosurgery offer the most complex forms of diagnostic evaluations and treatment options for both adults and children with epilepsy.
The UNC Epilepsy Center has a , a specialized inpatient unit designed to evaluate, diagnose, and treat seizures using state-of-the-art continuous video-EEG monitoring technology. Patients may come to UNC’s EMU for diagnosis of typical spell or seizure, localization of seizure, or anti-epileptic medication adjustment.
The treatment for epilepsy includes both medication and surgical intervention. Medication is the most common treatment method for epilepsy and can effectively control seizures for a large majority of patients.
The benefit of being evaluated at the UNC Epilepsy Center is our patients are evaluated by our multidisciplinary epilepsy team that includes cognitive and behavioral specialists, neurologists, and neurosurgeons.
UNC’s epilepsy specialists treat over 2,000 patients with epilepsy annually. Read more about the UNC Epilepsy Center.
Epilepsy Surgery at UNC Medical Center
UNC Health’s Level 4 Epilepsy Center offers Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy (LITT) to treat both adult and pediatric patients with epilepsy.
Traditionally, resection or neurostimulation were the available surgical treatment options for epilepsy patients that did not respond to medication. Resection is open brain surgery to remove a diseased portion of the brain. Neurostimulation requires the surgical implantation of electrodes to help detect when a seizure may be starting. Neurostimulation is typically not available to pediatric epilepsy patients.
LITT is a minimally invasive procedure that is just as effective as surgical resection without the risks associated with open brain surgery. Resection typically requires a surgical incision of 20-25 cm, while LITT only requires a 2 cm incision in the skull. Patients treated by LITT also have a shorter stay in the hospital and faster recovery time.
LITT is an appealing surgical option for pediatric epilepsy patients and their families. Children can be seizure-free without needing open brain surgery. Recovery time is also much quicker, allowing the child to resume normal activities much quicker than if they had been treated by surgical resection.
The goal of surgery is to completely stop the seizures or to decrease the frequency and severity of the seizures.
LITT Treatment for Epilepsy – What to Expect
The patient is first brought to the OR where accurate placement of the laser fiber is done using an advanced surgical navigation system. The patient is then brought to MRI where the neurosurgeon activates the laser to burn the diseased tissue. MRI imaging allows the neurosurgeon to follow the progress of the lesion with precision.
Once the patient is brought to MRI, the procedure takes about an hour, compared to resection which typically takes around four hours. The patient is then kept overnight for monitoring before being discharged the following day.
We offer weekly adult neurosurgery clinics in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Pinehurst, and South Boston, VA. We also offer weekly pediatric neurosurgery clinics in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Pinehurst, and Wilmington. The UNC Epilepsy Center is located at our main hospital in Chapel Hill. Visit our neurosurgery clinic locations page for the clinic or hospital nearest you or call 984-974-4175 to schedule an appointment.
For Adult Patients:
Vice Chair of Faculty Affairs
Vice Chair, Inpatient Operations
Service Line Leader
For Pediatric Patients:
Children’s Hospital Surgeon-in-Chief (Interim)
Division Chief and Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery
Associate Professor, Pediatric Neurosurgery
Associate Program Director
Director of UNC Global Neurosurgery Program