Discussion with Dennis Spencer, MD, President of AES

December 7, 2008
Keli Rising

I had the opportunity to talk with Dennis Spencer, MD, Harvey & Kate Cushing Professor Neurosurgery and Chair of Neurosurgery, Yale University School of Medicine, President of the American Epilepsy Society, about his research.I had the opportunity to talk with Dennis Spencer, MD, Harvey & Kate Cushing Professor Neurosurgery and Chair of Neurosurgery, Yale University School of Medicine, President of the American Epilepsy Society, about his research.

I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Spencer about his research. When asked about whether epilepsy patients have taught neurologists about the brain, Spencer says that it has allowed them to have a better understanding of how the brain works.

One thing that Spencer stresses is that when a patient living in the US is diagnosed with epilepsy, their first reaction is “Can I still drive?” He explains that because epilepsy and other seizure disorders takes away a person’s freedom, he or she will do whatever is necessary to come up with a solution to regain that freedom.

I asked Spencer what neurologists say to patients who might not necessarily need to have surgery to treat their epilepsy, but ask for it anyway. He told me that this is when ethics come into play because if a patient is controlled with medicine, he would tell the patient that surgery is unnecessary. However, Spencer says that if a patient is controlled by medicine, but is taking three drugs with cognitive impairments and high toxicity some neurologists would consider the patient to be controlled while others do not. Neurologists who do not think the patient is controlled might consider him or her to be a candidate for receiving surgery. “We’re interested in a cure.”

The biggest message that Spencer stressed during the discussion was that surgery is not a last resort as many people think it is. Grassroots education is needed and needs to be directed to the patients.

A full transcript of the discussion will be posted to MDNGLive after the conference concludes.