NYU Langone Hospital – Brooklyn has opened a new unit specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy, which is considered to be the fourth most common neurological illness in the US.

This illness is newly diagnosed in over two million individuals annually in the country.

NYU Langone Health  Department of Neurology  director of clinical trials and head of the epilepsy programme in Brooklyn Blanca Vazquez said: “The need for epilepsy care in the community is immense.  To facilitate access at NYU Langone Hospital – Brooklyn we have opened a dedicated epilepsy monitoring unit.”

Besides being equipped with diagnostic and digital video monitoring technology, the unit  complements the hospital’s newly renovated neurology suite. As admission and procedures can be scheduled in advance, it is made more convenient for patients and their families.

Vazquez said: “The various forms of epilepsy usually stem from uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. Many things can trigger seizures in an epilepsy patient, including fever, alcohol withdrawal, or sleep deprivation. Epilepsy can have a genetic component, and can result from malformations of development, brain trauma, tumors, infections, dementia, or stroke.”

Besides epileptologists, the unit team also includes neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, neurosurgeons, specially trained nurses and nurse practitioners, dieticians, physical, occupational and speech therapists, social workers, imaging technologists, and researchers.

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The team collaborates with those at NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in Manhattan, so that patients can be transferred if they need surgery or other more specialised procedures.

When a patient does not get a desired seizure control even after trying three different epileptic drugs on an outpatient basis, a hospital stay is usually recommended so that administration of a single drug or a combination of drugs can be monitored.

The unit’s video capabilities enable staff to monitor for any proof of seizure activity that can aid in pinpointing the exact kind of seizure, and which part of the brain is involved.

Further, brain mapping on the unit helps find the source of seizures to protect areas of the brain involving movement, speech, vision and memory.

Though uncontrolled shaking is the most common symptom with epilepsy, in several cases there are no overt signs.

Vasquez  added: “These are the most challenging cases. Patients can be misdiagnosed and treated inappropriately. Establishing a definitive diagnosis is critical to the successful management of epilepsy.”