Three million Americans have epilepsy, a disorder that causes unexpected seizures. When the condition can't be controlled by medication, brain surgery is sometimes an option. Now a less invasive laser surgery is available for some patients who would otherwise have little relief.
Bruce Damstrom, 67, is back behind the wheel after years of leaving the driving to someone else.
"I totaled my truck and that's when I stopped driving," Damstrom said.
He suffered seizures for years.
Eight years ago, they became more frequent and much more severe.
"Every time he had a seizure it would make you so scared, you just lost your breath. How could this be happening to him?" said his wife, Mary Damstrom.
In Bruce Damstrom's case, doctors were able to pinpoint the cause, a tiny lesion on the right side of his temple. Because of the location of the lesion, neurosurgeons could perform a less invasive surgical option.
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It's called laser interstitial thermal therapy, or LiTT.
Dr. Enrique Feoli, a neurologist at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, New Jersey, described LiTT as, "using [a] laser to burn or destroy a lesion that causes epilepsy."
Doctors make a small incision in the scalp and create a tiny opening in the skull. A laser catheter is placed into the lesion in the brain, using MRI imaging for accuracy. When the laser is activated, it destroys the portion of brain causing the seizure.
"The benefit is a simpler surgical procedure and much faster recovery, following the surgical procedure," Feoli said.
For Bruce Damstrom, it's an even bigger win. He has not had a single seizure since the day of his LiTT procedure.
"They got rid of the scar tissue in his brain, and he was back to being the old Bruce," Mary Damstrom said.
Feoli said the best candidates for this procedure are patients who have well-defined lesions, especially those with lesions in the temporal lobe, which is the side or temple area. Neurosurgeons have also used the LiTT procedure to treat patients with certain types of brain tumors.