Care at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

Patients with epilepsy and their families can count on Hershey Medical Center for innovative compassionate care. Our care team includes:

  • Adult epileptologists
  • Pediatric epileptologists
  • Epilepsy nurse practitioners
  • Epilepsy neurosurgeons
  • EEG technicians
  • Clinical neuropsychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Neuroradiologists
  • Nuclear medicine radiologists
  • Dietitians
  • Neuroscience nurses

Hershey Medical Center offers the highest level of epileptic care

The National Association of Epilepsy Centers has designated Hershey Medical Center as a Level 4 Epilepsy Center - the highest level. We offer:

  • Comprehensive evaluation
  • Complex neurodiagnostics monitoring (testing of the brain, spinal cord, nervous system)
  • Extensive medical, psychosocial and neuropsychological treatment
  • A range of surgical options

We also have an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit to help us decide the best treatment for each patient and a Neurophysiology Lab for extensive tests.

Diseases treated

Seizures are generally described in two major groups depending on how and where they begin in the brain:

  • Primary generalized seizures: Involving both sides of the brain at once
  • Partial seizures: Beginning in one limited area of the brain

Treatments and procedures

Most cases of epilepsy can be treated by medications. In some cases surgery, devices or dietary changes may be called for. Controlling epilepsy is very individualized. Each person can respond to treatments differently.

Dietary therapy

The Ketogenic Diet (high in fats) and Modified Atkins Diet (low in carbohydrates) can help patients control seizures.

Medication

Today we can treat epilepsy with nearly 20 different antiepileptic drugs. Our adult and pediatric epileptologists will find the one that works best.

Surgical resections

  • Lesionectomy Lesions that cause epilepsy can be removed surgically
  • Lobectomy An operation to remove a lobe of the brain
  • Multilobar resection ‑ Removal of parts of two or more lobes of the brain
  • Hemispherectomy ‑ To remove or disconnect a hemisphere (half) of the brain
  • Laser thermal ablation ‑ Surgical treatment with the use of a laser.

Surgical disconnection

These surgeries separate the area of the brain causing the seizures from the normal parts of the brain:

  • Corpus callosotomyDisconnecting a fiber bundle that connects the two sides of the brain
  • Functional hemispherectomy Separating the abnormal side of the brain from the normal one
  • Multiple subpial transections (MST)A small wire placed into the brain to disconnect the cross-communication of neurons (nerve cells)
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery ‑ A focused beam of radiation to a specific brain area. (e.g., Gamma Knife® radiosurgery)

Neurostimulation

  • Vagus nerve stimulationThe surgical placement of electrodes in the neck and a generator below the collar bone
  • Responsive neurostimulation (RNS)The surgical placement of a neurostimulator in the skull

Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) for diagnosis and surgery

The EMU at Hershey Medical Center has four private rooms arranged around a central observation area. Adult patients stay in the EMU for several days. During that time, they are continuously watched and studied by nurses, technologists and doctors.

Patients undergo video-EEG monitoring (an electroencephalogram checks the electrical activity in the brain). This state-of-the-art computerized equipment records and analyzes their seizures. The analysis helps us make a definite diagnosis for each patient. If a patient needs surgery, the video-EEG monitoring finds the exact region in the brain where seizures arise.

During your stay, our team takes the utmost care to ensure patient safety.

Groups, Classes & Support

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

Epilepsy for Family and Friends

Meet monthly with the families and friends of those with epilepsy.

These meetings are sponsored by Hershey Medical Center and the Epilepsy Foundation of Western/central Pennsylvania.

Date:

First Tuesday of every month

Time:

6-7:30 p.m.

Location:

Department of Neurosurgery
Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
30 Hope Drive
Building B, second floor, conference room 2005

Additional information:

Contact Laura Woodward at 717-730-6779 or email lwoodward@efwp.org

Research & Clinical Trials

The epilepsy specialists at the Medical Center are actively involved in research to improve patient care. If you are interested in taking part in a study, visit StudyFinder to learn more about our research and clinical trials.

Symptoms, Diagnosis & Outlook

  • Seizures take many forms. Before your care team can prescribe the right treatment, they must figure out which type you have so you get exactly the care you need.

    Symptoms of an epileptic seizure

    Seizure symptoms vary from person to person. They depend on the part of the brain affected and the type of epilepsy a person has. Most of the time, a seizure is similar to the one that preceded it.

    Seizures often have a specific set of symptoms before, during and after the event.

    Before a seizure, people may experience certain warning signs called an aura. They may include:

    • Sense of déjà vu
    • Strange tastes and smells
    • Feelings of fear, anxiety or panic
    • Nausea or feeling of stomach rising into throat
    • Vertigo and dizziness
    • Visual symptoms, such as flashing bright lights, spots or wavy lines

    During a seizure, people may experience:

    • Loss of awareness or consciousness
    • Repetitive movements (lip smacking or picking at clothing)
    • Drooling or frothing at the mouth
    • Grunting and snorting
    • Staring or blinking
    • Strange tastes, smells and sounds
    • Visual hallucinations or seeing flashing lights
    • Out of body sensation
    • Teeth clenching and tongue biting
    • Rigidity of body followed by jerking movements (convulsions)
    • Slumping and falling
    • Loss of bladder or bowel control

    After a seizure, people may experience:

    • Headache
    • Memory loss
    • Fatigue and muscle weakness
    • Sleepiness
    • Confusion
    • Loss of bowel or bladder control

    Diagnosing epilepsy

    For adults and children, your epileptologist will decide which of these diagnostic tests are right for you:

    • Electroencephalography (EEG)
    • Inpatient video-EEG monitoring in adult and pediatric epilepsy monitoring units
    • Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • Positron emission tomography (PET)
    • Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)
    • Neuropsychological evaluation, functional MRI
    • Intracarotid amobarbital/methohexital (Wada test)

    To determine if a patient will benefit from surgery, doctors perform these tests:

    • Subdural electrodes
    • Depth electrodes
    • Combination of subdural and depth electrodes.
    • Stereoelectroencephalography
    • Functional mapping

    Outlook for epilepsy patients

    There are many different forms of epilepsy and everyone’s symptoms are different. Your care team will persist until they find the exact type of epilepsy you have. Then they will create the treatment plan that’s right for you.

    Although drugs do not cure it, most patients can control their seizures with medication. Drugs do not cure epilepsy, but they can often seizures very well.

    At Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, our goal is to work in partnership with you to help control your seizures and improve your quality of life. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of the many resources, like The Epilepsy Foundation, that can help you manage your epilepsy and live a happy, healthy, productive life.

We can help

To make appointments for adults, call 717-531-3828

To make appointments for children, call 717-531-1442