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New grant to make epilepsy surgery even safer

Epilepsy Society is pleased to announce that the Wellcome Trust has awarded a multi-million pound grant to continue research into image-guided neurosurgical treatment of epilepsy. 

The work is led by the charity's former medical director Professor John Duncan and Professor Sebastien Ourselin.

Working with teams at University College London they have developed a sophisticated 3D neuronavigation system that simultaneously displays critical brain functions, lesions, arteries, veins, blood vessels and white matter tracts connecting areas of the brain.

The system enables neurosurgeons to plan the best operative approach for inserting recording electrodes in the brain and for planning operations.

Fewer complications

It is hoped that this will result in  even more precise operations with a higher cure rate and fewer complications such as damage to vital functions including language, memory and vision.. 

The grant has been awarded through the Health Innovation Challenge Fund and will allow teams from UCL's Translational Imaging Group and the Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy to implement automated planning of electrode trajectories and robotic systems for placing the electrodes into the brain.

 Tumour surgery 

It will also establish methods for automated 3D planning of neurosurgical resections, so that surgery is optimal and quicker. Consequently, curative neurosurgery will be available more quickly to more individuals. The surgical advances pioneered will be applicable in future to other procedures, such as taking biopsies and tumour surgery.

Seizure freedom 

A recent study showed that almost 50 per cent of people remained seizure free five years after undergoing epilepsy surgery. Yet of the 1,000 people identified in the UK each year as being suitable for epilepsy surgery, only half undergo treatment.

Writing in Epilepsy Society's magazine Epilepsy Review, Professor Duncan said: 'Funding may play a key part in these statistics, but another deciding factor is also concerns about potential damage to an individual's vital functions such as language, memory and vision.

'Seizure freedom is the ultimate goal but no-one wants to lose the essence of who they are in terms of mental well being and the ability to communicate and recall important memories.

'We hope the Epilepsy Navigator will lead to even safer surgery, improved chance of seizure freedom and reduced risk of damage to language, memory, movement and vision.'