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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
Telegraph reporters

Laser beam epilepsy treatment to be rolled out on the NHS

Epilepsy - Science Photo Library
Epilepsy - Science Photo Library

Laser beam therapy for those with epilepsy who have not responded to other types of treatment is to be rolled out on the NHS.

The “game-changing” technique will mean that about 150 patients a year can be saved from invasive neurosurgery and its associated risks.

The treatment, to be introduced next March, uses lasers to target the part of the brain that causes seizures.

Prof Sir Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, said: “This pioneering laser beam treatment for epilepsy patients is life-changing and will offer hope to up to 150 people every year who have not had success in preventing seizures with traditional drugs.

“By replacing invasive neurosurgery with a cutting-edge laser therapy, allowing clinicians to better target the parts of the brain causing the epilepsy, we not only dramatically reduce risks to these patients, but drastically reduce their recovery time both in and out of hospital.”

The therapy uses a 1.5mm-wide probe with the laser at its tip, which is inserted into the skull.

The patient is put in an MRI scanner and the clinical team navigates through the brain, avoiding blood vessels and other critical structures.

Once the brain tissue causing epilepsy is located, it is heated up and destroyed.

The team can monitor the temperature of the surrounding areas to ensure healthy brain tissue does not overheat.

Patients usually need to stay in hospital for only a night and can return to their usual work and activities within a week.

The treatment may be suitable for up to one in three patients whose epilepsy cannot be controlled by drugs alone.

‘A chance to live a normal life’

Until now, those people may have needed invasive neurosurgery to remove the epilepsy-causing part of the brain.

Under the therapy guidelines, fibre optic treatment could suit people with focal epilepsy that has not been controlled with two or more appropriate anti-seizure medications at the maximum tolerated doses.

People must also have attended an epilepsy surgery centre and would have a form of the condition that could make open neurosurgery highly risky.

Prof James Palmer, the medical director for specialised services at NHS England, said: “This innovative laser therapy is a game-changing breakthrough for patients who have not had success with traditional forms of treatment to control their seizures and will give those with epilepsy a real chance to live a normal life.”

Robert Jenrick, the health minister, said: “This technology is testament to the UK constantly being on the front foot in the discovery of ground-breaking technology to help us deliver our Plan for Patients and ensure people can get the right care, right now.”

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