Unique Nerve-Stimulation Treatment Effective for Drug-Resistant Epilepsy

A clinical trial has proved a unique nerve-stimulation treatment to be effective in patients suffering from drug-resistance epilepsy.

A clinical trial performed on participants suffering from epilepsy has proved a unique nerve-stimulation treatment to be effective in patients suffering from drug-resistance epilepsy, according to researchers.

While medication is the usual core treatment for epilepsy, a considerable number of patients—estimated to be roughly 1 million in the United States alone—suffer from a variation of epilepsy which cannot be treated by drug therapy alone, and their seizures persist despite the administration of epilepsy medication.

But a UCLA professor of neurology, Dr. Christopher DeGiorgio, has presented the results of a non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical treatment which has the potential to control seizures in such drug resistant cases.

DeGiorgio, lead inventor of the treatment and principal investigator of the study, reported the results of a Phase 2 clinical trial of a new treatment called trigeminal nerve stimulation (TNS) in his talk at the Antiepileptic Drug Trials XI Conference in Miami, Florida this month.

He stated that at the completion of the eighteen-week clinical trial, 40% of the participants receiving TNS treatment in the trial underwent a considerable improvement in seizure reduction, meaning they experienced a 50% or greater reduction in the frequency of seizures.

"We showed that TNS works well, under stringent clinical-trial conditions,” DeGiorgio said. “The fact that 40% showed a clinically-meaningful response is exciting.”

These results corroborate and expand the findings of DeGiorgio's positive Phase 1 trial on epilepsy, reported in 2009 in the journal Neurology.

“TNS offers potential benefits — it can be delivered bilaterally (to both sides of the brain) and at high frequencies," DeGiorgio said. "Since the electrical energy does not travel directly into the brain, TNS provides a safe method of brain modulation.”

The TNS treatment is conducted by attaching wires from an external stimulator—which can be conveniently attached to a belt or slipped into a pocket—to the forehead. The electrodes will then transmit a signal to the trigeminal nerve, a nerve that is known to play a role in seizure inhibition, and thus the TNS works its magic to hinder seizures. The electrodes, DeGiorgio noted, can be hidden under a hat or scarf in an effort to better conceal them, and the wires attached to the external stimulator can easily be hidden under clothing.

Additional benefits of TNS include not only a reduction in seizure frequency, but also an improvement of mood in participants; depression is a common affliction associated with those suffering from epilepsy, and as such, this particular finding could positively impact the quality of life of those who live with the affliction.

"I'm encouraged to see that our non-invasive and safe approach to neuromodulation compares favorably to pharmaceutical and surgically implanted—device therapies of drug-resistant epilepsy," DeGiorgio said.