For Immediate Release
12/17/2015

Sinai Hospital Doctors Are First in the Mid-Atlantic Region to Offer New, Automatic Vagus Nerve Stimulator for the Treatment of Epilepsy

New Technology Reacts to Heart Rate Spikes That Often Precede Seizures

Baltimore, MD – A device that responds to rapid increases in heart rate that often precede epileptic seizures may be a new treatment option for patients with recurrent seizures. Doctors at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore are the first in the mid-Atlantic region to offer this advancement in vagus nerve stimulation, which delivers mild electrical stimulation to a patient’s vagus nerve (in the neck) to control or lessen the severity of seizures.

“Seizures are unpredictable, and previous vagus nerve stimulators depended on whether a patient could sense that a seizure may have been coming on and had the time or ability to intervene. This new device responds automatically to a rapid and sudden acceleration in heart rate, which studies have shown will occur in more than three-quarters of seizures,” says Omar Zalatimo, M.D., M.P.H, M.H.A, director of functional neurosurgery at LifeBridge Health’s Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute.

He adds, “This advancement could make a huge difference for many people who, despite taking medication, continue to have seizures weekly or even daily. This new vagus nerve stimulator, which incorporates cardiac monitoring and responds to physiological changes, offers a way to deliver automatic stimulation that should reduce or resolve the seizures and improve the quality of life for these patients.”

Neurosurgeons implant the vagus nerve stimulator in the chest, similar to the way a pacemaker is implanted. A wire runs under the skin from the chest to a lead wrapped around the vagus nerve in the neck. A few weeks after the surgeon places the stimulator, the patient returns to his or her neurologist’s office to have the device turned on and programmed. Patients may not see immediate benefits, as it can take several months to achieve improvement.

Like other vagus nerve stimulators, this new system has a magnetic device that allows the patient to activate or deactivate the stimulator.

“Automatic stimulation may also be critical for seizures that occur while someone is sleeping, when other people may not be around to help,” says Dr. Zalatimo.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the new AspireSR® generator in June 2015.

The advancement in care provides another option for the Berman Brain & Spine Institute’s epilepsy team, which offers a full-range of treatments from medication to surgical interventions.

LifeBridge Health is one of the largest providers of health care in Maryland. In addition to Sinai Hospital, LifeBridge Health includes Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, and related subsidiaries and affiliates. For more information, go to www.lifebridgehealth.org.

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Sharon Boston
svboston@lifebridgehealth.org
Office: 410-601-4350