The AspireSR vagal nerve stimulator, similar to a pacemaker, is implanted under the skin in the chest. When the device detects a sudden increase in heart rate, which accompanies the early stage of a seizure, it attempts to electrically interrupt the seizure before the patient loses consciousness by sending an electrical impulse through a small wire connecting the device to the vagus nerve.
While vagus nerve stimulation has been a common treatment for epileptic seizures since the late 1990s, Albany Med neurologist Anthony Ritaccio, M.D., ’84 says the AspireSR device has a better ability to detect and treat seizures before they occur.
“Previous models of vagus nerve stimulators required patient action to trigger an electrical impulse to the brain once the seizure had already begun,” said Ritaccio, director of Albany Med’s Epilepsy and Human Brain Mapping Program and J. Spencer Standish professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Albany Medical College. “The AspireSR has the ability to detect a seizure before it has begun, even while a patient is asleep. Our hope is that this will significantly decrease the number of seizures our patients experience and improve their quality of life.”
“We are pleased to be able to offer a minimally invasive option to both our adult and pediatric patients who do not respond well to medication and who are not candidates for brain surgery,” said Matthew Adamo, M.D., associate professor of neurosurgery at Albany Med.
AspireSR was FDA approved in June. Albany Med performed its first surgery with the device in early July and has implanted five devices to date. The epilepsy program expects to implant 30-40 devices per year.
The device is only implantable at Level 4 epilepsy centers such as Albany Medical Center. A Level 4 rating from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers indicates a center offers the most advanced medical and surgical treatment options for epilepsy.
Albany Med’s Epilepsy and Human Brain Mapping Program, which is part of the Neurosciences Institute, evaluates more than 350 patients each year in its inpatient epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU). The EMU offers the most technologically sophisticated monitoring experience available, including wireless brainwave recording. Brain mapping techniques are used to locate areas of the brain important for language, memory and movement to safely guide surgical tissue removal in order to stop the seizures.
To learn more about Albany Med’s epilepsy program and how our neurologists and neurosurgeons have helped patients overcome epilepsy, visit www.amc.edu/neuro.
Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is one of the largest private employers in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 734-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other health care professionals, and also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with more than 450 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life. For more information: www.amc.edu or www.facebook.com/albanymedicalcenter.
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