Skip to main content

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.

Epilepsy Treatment - UNC NeurosurgeryA 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

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 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. 

Epilepsy surgery has historically been seen as a “last resort”, however, there are scenarios in which surgery as an early intervention may be beneficial, and can result in seizure freedom and weaning off of anti-epileptic medication. Unfortunately, many of those who could qualify for surgery are not evaluated because it was never recommended. 

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

At the UNC Epilepsy Center, your care team will determine if your typical spells are epileptic seizures and if they are the right types of seizures for surgery. If one of our physicians believes you should be evaluated for epilepsy surgery, you will be asked to come to the UNC Epilepsy Center for a series of tests including medical imaging, a complete physical, and blood work to rule out other medical conditions.

For epilepsy surgery, our neurosurgeons first need to determine where seizures occur in the brain. This will then help your UNC epilepsy treatment team decide which portions of the brain need to be removed in order to stop seizures from occurring. Brain mapping is a procedure that is used before surgery to determine which regions of the brain perform specific functions, such as speech or mobility, to understand which portions of the brain can be removed safely.

The goal of surgery is to completely stop the seizures or to decrease the frequency and severity of the seizures. 

Sometimes surgical removal of the seizure focus is not possible and in those cases, you may still be a candidate for a different procedure called Responsive Neurostimulation or RNS. This is where electrodes are placed that help detect when a seizure may be starting and sends an electrical impulse that aborts the seizure. 

UNC Neurosurgery also treats epilepsy in children

We offer weekly adult neurosurgery clinics in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Pinehurst, Wilmington, 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.


Our Team

For Adult Patients:



Suzette LaRoche, MD, FACNS, FAAN

Albert Hinn, MD

Bradley V. Vaughn, MD

Angela Wabulya, MBChB

Clio Rubinos, MD, MS

Atif Tahir Sheikh, MD

Brandon Waters, MD

For Pediatric Patients:



Chon Lee, MD

Yael Shiloh-Malawsky, MD

Qian-Zhou (jJo Jo) Yang, MD

Senyene Hunter, MD, PhD