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Health, Science & Tech

Allegheny General Hospital Adds Specialized Epilepsy Unit

With the hope of being able to help epilepsy patients who have not responded to other treatments, Allegheny General Hospital Friday opened a unit designed to monitor and evaluate those who suffer from the condition.

The division includes four private rooms, each equipped with a video camera and an EEG (electroencephalography) device, which, combined, allows physicians to record patient behavior and their neurological activity.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes clusters of nerve cells to send out the wrong neurological signals, resulting in seizures. The seizures can cause violent muscle spasms or a loss of consciousness.

Dr. James Valeriano, chairman of the department of neurology for the Allegheny Health Network, said the system will work as an evaluation tool so physicians can find the most effective treatments for their patients.

Doctors will work to induce seizures in patients in order to pinpoint the source of epilepsy.

“If you can find that generator or pacemaker area of the brain where the seizures originate, the idea is to try to take that out surgically by identifying that area,” he said.

Valeriano also said the unit is designed for those who haven’t had success with any epilepsy medications.

“We’ll be able to bring people in more quickly, to work them up more quickly,” he said. “Again, these are people with bad seizure disorders who have significant issues, so it’s nice for them too if we can move it along and get them worked up quickly.”

Each room is connected to a centralized monitoring station where physicians and EEG technicians can observe patient habits at all times.

Valeriano said very little will go unnoticed by this new system.

“This will also not only allow people to get into the hospital quicker because we have more beds, but it will also increase the efficiency that we will not miss seizures that happen because they might be too brief because we have somebody watching the monitors all the time,” he said.

About 1-in-26 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some point in their life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Allegheny General Hospital will begin admitting patients to the unit next week.