We want adults and children with epilepsy to live the best life possible. To that end, our epilepsy (seizure disorder) specialists at the Medical Center offer the highest level of care. Our Level 4 Epilepsy Center has the most up-to-date diagnostic and surgical technology in central Pennsylvania.
- Care at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
- Groups, Classes & Support
- Research & Clinical Trials
- Symptoms, Diagnosis & Outlook
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
- Nuclear medicine radiologists
- Neuroscience nurses
Hershey Medical Center offers the highest level of epileptic care
- 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.
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
What is epilepsy?
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.
The Ketogenic Diet (high in fats) and Modified Atkins Diet (low in carbohydrates) can help patients control seizures.
Today we can treat epilepsy with nearly 20 different antiepileptic drugs. Our adult and pediatric epileptologists will find the one that works best.
- 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.
These surgeries separate the area of the brain causing the seizures from the normal parts of the brain:
- Corpus callosotomy ‑ Disconnecting 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)
- Vagus nerve stimulation ‑ The 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 for diagnosis and surgery
The Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (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
Sponsored by Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the Epilepsy Foundation of Western/Central Pennsylvania. This group meets the first Tuesday of every month, 6 to 7 p.m. at 30 Hope Drive, Building B, second floor conference room 2005. The cost is free.
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:
- Memory loss
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
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.
- 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.