TMC Designated as Specialized Epilepsy Center

Epilepsy, which ranks fourth among the nation’s most common neurological disorders, is far more varied than many people expect.

While in the recent past, people might have thought the disorder synonymous with uncontrolled convulsions, experts now understand the disorder is far more nuanced, presenting as uncontrolled laughing, extreme fear and anxious feelings, or even episodes of staring. An estimated 1 in 26 people will develop a seizure disorder at some point in their lives, with risk factors including traumatic brain injury and stroke.

Tucson Medical Center’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in recent weeks received a designation as a Level 3 Epilepsy Center, demonstrating it has the expertise and the facilities to provide patients with epilepsy or intractable seizures the highest level medical evaluation and treatment. The designation is recognized by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers.

“Epilepsy is a rising concern for the community,” said David Sholes, the manager of Neurodiagnostics at TMC, which is one of only two Southern Arizona facilities offering a 24-hour epilepsy monitoring unit.

“It affects patients’ lifestyles and quality of life. We are now becoming better-educated as a community that children who are having problems in school, who are staring and showing an inability to focus, for example, might actually be having seizures.”

“If children are struggling in school or adults are having trouble balancing all of their daily responsibilities due to uncontrollable seizures, we want to help by adding clarity to the situation and giving them options.”

A team of technologists and neurologists work together to help pinpoint the type of seizure patients might be experiencing and design an appropriate treatment regimen. Patients have electrodes placed on their heads and are videotaped during their epilepsy monitoring stay. If a seizure occurs, medical staff can correlate the clinical activity with the brain activity to try to pinpoint what area of the brain is irritated and causing the abnormal activity. Bedside nurses are in attendance to provide support care to keep patients safe from harm and injury.

TMC already has a respected panel of epileptologists – Drs. David Teeple, Dinesh Talwar and Monica Chacon. Combined with that trio, Sholes said, “the certification just makes it a complete package. It ensures patients we’ve gone through all the necessary steps and have all the resources in place to deliver the highest quality care, which increases their confidence in us.”

Although Sholes estimated only 5 percent of patients are eligible for surgery to control their seizures, a growing number of patients can benefit from medication. Children of various age groups can also be candidates for surgical intervention, although some children with specific seizure types can outgrow them. These treatment options will be clearly explained to the patient when they go through TMC’s Epilepsy program, he said.

“With the appropriate diagnostics, we have the ability to give the patient options, so they can make the best decisions for their family member or themselves.”

Michael Lally, the manager of patient care services in the neurology and neurosurgery division, lauded the announcement. “It acknowledges that we continue to work to upgrade our program in order to provide the best care to people who have epilepsy.”

According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, an estimated 2.2 million Americans have epilepsy, with 150,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

For more information, please see your doctor or call Tucson Medical Center Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at 520-324-5350 or 324-5287.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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