Oren Sagher, M.D., performs brain surgery to treat epilepsy with the help of a computerized navigation system.

Stopping Seizures with Surgery

Effective treatment for epilepsy is underutilized.

issue 14 | winter 2012

John Ligerakis was told he had to learn to live with the seizures that disrupted his life. "As time went on, I could count on having a seizure every day," the 35-year-old says. "We tried medication after medication, but none of them worked and each of them had different side effects."

"Epilepsy absolutely ruins the quality of someone's life," says Simon Glynn, M.D., assistant professor of neurology and a member of the Epilepsy Surgery program at U-M, which has one of the nation's largest and most comprehensive epilepsy programs.

After having surgery at U-M, Ligerakis has been seizure-free for six years. But only about one or two out of 100 people who are eligible for epilepsy surgery ever make it to the operating room, says Oren Sagher, M.D., professor of neurosurgery at U-M.

When a focus — or location in the brain that causes the seizures — can be identified, epilepsy surgery is very successful. "What we actually are doing is carving out the area that we think is the cause of these electrical storms and removing it from the brain so it can no longer spark the fire of the seizure," Sagher says.