If you're living with epilepsy, you probably take antiepileptic medications regularly to control your symptoms. But for about a third of epileptics, even the best medical treatments won't be effective.

New Treatment Options
There's hope on the horizon for people with uncontrolled epilepsy, according to Christopher DeGiorgio, MD, a Professor of Neurology at UCLA, and Vice President of Neurology at NeuroSigma, a Los Angeles medical device company. New medications are introduced regularly, and now a treatment called external Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation (eTNSTM) is available by prescription in the European Union and under investigation in clinical trials in the U.S. "It provides a non-invasive and life-changing option that will help reduce seizures in many people with epilepsy," Dr. DeGiorgio says.

How External Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation Works
eTNSTM involves placing an electric patch on the forehead, often at night, to stimulate branches of the trigeminal nerve (the largest of the nerve pairs in the cranium). eTNSTM sends gentle electrical pulses from the device's generator to the forehead. "Brain imaging studies ("PET scans") provide evidence that trigeminal nerve stimulation leads to decreases in activity in key parts of the cerebral cortex [the "gray matter" that covers the cerebrum, the largest and most developed part of the brain], where epileptic seizures can start from or spread to," explains Dr. DeGiorgio. eTNSTM enables doctors to influence the parts of the brain that control seizures-without surgery.

Surprising Benefits
In clinical trials conducted in the US, the eTNSTM device has helped significantly improve patients' mood, and may reduce symptoms of depression. While the link between depression and epilepsy may not seem obvious (these common disorders involve different areas of the brain, according to Dr. DeGiorgio), trigeminal nerve stimulation reaches key parts of the brain involved in both epilepsy and depression.

The Range of Treatments for Epilepsy
There are also other epilepsy treatments that may help you better manage symptoms. "New anti-epileptic drugs are introduced every year, and the use of more invasive, implantable devices is currently under investigation," Dr. DeGiorgio says. Patients might also consider visiting an epilepsy center, which would enable them to take advantage of an array of treatments and connect them with experts in state-of-the-art diagnosis and therapy. "I would recommend patients discuss their situation with their physician," Dr. DeGiorgio says. These options offer real hope for people trying to get a better handle on their epilepsy.

Christopher DeGiorgio, MD, reviewed this article.


DeGiorgio, Christopher MD, vice president, Neurology at NeuroSigma and a professor at the UCLA School of Medicine's Department of Neurology. Email interview 13 Dec. 2012.

PRNewswire.com. "NeuroSigma's Monarch eTNS System to be Unveiled in London." 25 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.