NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn recently opened a new unit specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy, the fourth most common neurological illness and one that is newly diagnosed in more than 2 million individuals annually in the United States.
“The need for epilepsy care in the community is immense. To facilitate access at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn, we have opened a dedicated epilepsy monitoring unit,” says Blanca Vazquez, MD, director of epilepsy clinical trials in the Department of Neurology at NYU Langone Health and head of the epilepsy program in Brooklyn. Dr. Vazquez is an epileptologist, a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy.
The epilepsy unit is equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic and digital video monitoring technology and complements the hospital’s newly renovated neurology suite. Admission and procedures can be scheduled in advance, making it more convenient for patients and their families.
“The various forms of epilepsy usually stem from uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain,” says Dr. Vazquez, who has been with NYU Langone Health for 26 years and in Brooklyn since 2010. “Many things can trigger seizures in an epilepsy patient, including fever, alcohol withdrawal, or sleep deprivation. Epilepsy can have a genetic component, and can result from malformations of development, brain trauma, tumors, infections, dementia, or stroke.”
In addition to epileptologists, the unit team also includes neuropsychologists; psychiatrists; neurosurgeons; specially trained nurses and nurse practitioners; dietitians; physical, occupational, and speech therapists; social workers; imaging technologists; and researchers. The team collaborates with colleagues at NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in Manhattan, where patients can be transferred if surgery or other more specialized procedures are necessary.
“Epilepsy can severely impact a patient’s safety, quality of life, and work and school activities,” says Orrin Devinsky, MD, professor of psychiatry, neurosurgery, and neurology at NYU Langone and director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. “We recommend drugs that are easy to use with other medications and which minimally impact a patient’s activities of daily living.”
Monitoring Effectiveness of Treatment
If a patient does not achieve a desired seizure control after trying three different epileptic drugs on an outpatient basis, a hospital stay is usually recommended to monitor administration of a single drug or a combination of drugs. The unit’s video capabilities allow staff to closely monitor for evidence of seizure activity that can help pinpoint the precise type of seizure, and which part of the brain is involved.
In addition, brain mapping on the unit helps determine the source of seizures and areas of the brain involving movement, speech, vision and memory that need to be protected.
Uncontrolled shaking is the most common symptom with epilepsy—yet in many cases there are no overt signs. “These are the most challenging cases,” Dr. Vasquez says. “Patients can be misdiagnosed and treated inappropriately. Establishing a definitive diagnosis is critical to the successful management of epilepsy.”
The opening of the new epilepsy unit continues a transformation initiative under way at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn. “We are proud to reach another milestone with the opening of the neurology unit and now a specially equipped area for epilepsy,” says Bret J. Rudy, MD, executive hospital director and senior vice president, NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn. “Patients will benefit greatly being cared for by our outstanding team of experts in this brand new unit.”