Smart Device Helps Combat Epileptic Seizures At Vanderbilt

Posted at 7:36 PM, Feb 13, 2018

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that more than 70,000 people in Tennessee live with according to the CDC, and now new technology is making it easier for numerous Tennesseans to live a more normal life. 

In 2013, NeuroPace's RNS System was made available to patients all across the United States, and the doctors at Vanderbilt were equipped to install the system into people's brains to monitor and respond to brain activity. 

"Every time it detects a possible seizure starting, the device applies a stimulus, and that happens actually, usually, hundreds of times a day," Dr. Kevin Haas with the Neurology Department, said. 

Dr. Haas specializes in epilepsy and has numerous patients with the RNS System installed, responding to the brain's activity.

"Responsive stimulation means that it actually records the seizure activity and the the stimulus is applied in response to detecting seizure activity," Haas explained. 

The device itself is attached to the skull of the patient, then electrodes are attached to certain parts of the brain for the monitoring of brain activity. 

The device records all brain activity and it's used to help the doctor better tune the device to the specific patient to minimize the amount of seizures and how severe they are. 

Kim Matherly had the RNS System installed in August of 2014, and while she would have up to 10 seizures a month prior to having it installed, she has only had four seizures in the past four years. 

"It's opening doors for me that I didn't think I'd ever have possible," Matherly said, adding that the RNS System has allowed her to learn how to drive, and that she was planning on going back to college thanks to the more normalized life. "I've gotten my independence. I was told I'd never even be able to have my own place, and I do, and that makes me very happy." 

While NeuroPace's RNS System is not for all epilepsy patients, the hope is the device will be able to help more individuals as it's further developed and improve as many people's lives as possible.