The Epilepsy Foundation estimates that 200,000 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed each year. 45,000 cases are in kids under 15. When medicine doesn't control seizures, surgery can. And as Vince Sherry reports, some doctors would like to see younger patients opt for the surgical option ealier.
15 year old Jessica Wilson has a lot to look forward to. "Driving is coming up in the next couple years."
Just a year ago, driving wasn't a realistic goal for Jessica. She's had epilepsy since she was 6. Her seizures were unpredictable.
Debbie Wilson, Jessica's mother, remembers them well. "The longest she went without a seizure was four months on one of the drugs... but then they would start back up again."
After multiple medicines failed, the Wilson's decided to see if Jessica was a candidate for epilepsy-curing brain surgery.
Deborah Holder, M.D says "Surgery in many cases is a chance to cure the epilepsy, the seizures go away, and you can come off medication and live the rest of your life with no seizures."
Patients are hospitalized for 2 more more weeks with electrodes attached to the brain.
Although hard to watch, this seizure helped doctors pinpoint the area of Jessica's brain that was triggering the problem.
Dr. Holder says "Your seizures have to be coming from one area of the brain and they have to, it has to be an area that we can safely go in and take out."
One year after brain surgery, Jessica's medicine and seizure free.
"As a parent, like I felt that I was giving her every opportunity to lead a normal life by having this done." says Jessica's mother Debbie.
Holder would like to see more families explore the possibility of surgery.
"We're doing surgery now on much younger patients. We've done, done kids as young as two years. Our goal would be to get rid of the epilepsy before the patient even knows they have seizures to try to cure the disease before it really affects their quality of life."
A goal for any family touched by epilepsy. This is Vince Sherry reporting.
Dr. Holder says most large children's hospitals have epilepsy specialists that can determine if you or your child is a candidate for surgery. The Epilepsy Foundation also has resources to help find an expert in your area. Their website is www.epilepsyfoundation.org.
FAST FACTS: About 2.7 million people in the U.S. have epilepsy. Another 200,000 cases are diagnosed every year. About 20 percent of seizures can't be adequately controlled with drugs. Half of all children evaluated for uncontrolled epilepsy are eligible for surgery to control their seizures. Epilepsy surgery cures seizures in 71 percent of kids under three. For more details, refer to our comprehensive research summary.