WINSTON-SALEM – Epilepsy specialists at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have found that brain injury patients in a coma can benefit from prolonged electroencephalographic (EEG) testing that may diagnose whether seizure activity is contributing to their coma state.
“EEG monitoring helps us pinpoint a cause as to why the patient may still be suffering from a coma in intensive care units that previously would have gone unrecognized,” Cormac O’Donovan, M.D., an epileptologist, director of the EEG lab and principal investigator for the study at the medical center. “Hopefully by beginning treatment early, we can eliminate or reduce the side effects of prolonged seizures on the brain.”
O’Donovan presented his research at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society in San Diego on Monday.
Physicians and critical care specialists have been using EEG monitoring sporadically when dealing with patients who have suffered blood and oxygen loss to the brain and are in a coma.
“This study helped show that regular use of the EEG can help us diagnose seizure activity in the brain of comatose patients, that when controlled, can help a patient to recover,” he said. “We used to only monitor a patient for up to an hour. However, this study showed we only pick up half the seizures in patients when we record for a limited time.”
The study included 44 patients who had experienced a brain injury that left them in a coma or unresponsive, O’Donovan said. Patients were monitored for at least 24 hours and up to 8 days The study revealed that 31 of the patients who fit the criteria for the study experienced seizures –both non-convulsive and convulsive types. Seizures were treated and controlled in 11 patients within 24 hours of diagnosis.
“We are hoping that by stopping these seizures we can prevent further brain damage,” O’Donovan said.
Epilepsy occurs frequently in patients who have suffered some sort of brain injury, such as a stroke or heart attack, where blood flow to the brain is reduced.
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About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,187 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.