AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Doctors at the Medical College of Georgia are at the forefront of helping seizure patients who don’t respond to medication.

“It’s electricity,” said Dr. Fernando Vale, a neurosurgeon and Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. “That’s how brain cells connect to each other, that’s how they send messages to each other. But every so often, there’s gonna be this short circuit that will shut down the system and that’s a seizure.”

Dr. Vale specializes in epilepsy and functional disorders.

For about 20% of epilepsy patients, he says, medication doesn’t help with their seizures.

“It’s a very devastating chronic problem and I don’t think that we pay attention enough to these patients,” said Dr. Vale. 

The vagus nerve stimulation device is a technology-based instrument that helps those patients manage their seizures. It’s been around since 1997.

“Unfortunately, those early patients that were implanted many, many years ago could not get access to the new technology,” said Dr. Vale. “It’s like you’re stuck with the same old battery on that new iPhone.” 

Now there is new technology available and doctors can replace the generator of an older device with a simple outpatient procedure. 

The new generator acts like a software update.

“This technology is attempting to correct for our shortcomings and is what we’re going to call individualized medicine,” said Dr. Vale.

Dr. Vale recently performed the procedure on a patient. Not only will this ensure the device update…it also helps prevent future surgeries for the patient. 

“It’s a very simple solution to a complicated problem- that is, seizures and epilepsy,” said Dr. Vale. “And when you have a device that you can offer to almost anybody with minimal side effects…overall, the quality of life will improve.”

MCG was the first in the nation to implant this new technology into a patient’s old device.