A ground-breaking, robot-assisted surgery is offering hope for a life without seizures for young epilepsy patients.
Last October, 14-year-old Ethan became the first paediatric patient in Ontario to undergo a robot-assisted stereoencephalography (SEEG).
The procedure took place at the London Health Sciences Centre's University Campus.
LHSC was also the first in Ontario to perform an SEEG procedure on an adult patient, and is now transferring that knowledge for paediatric use.
In October, the device was used to implant electrodes into Ethan’s brain that could map where his seizures originated.
Dr. Andrea Andrade is medical director for LHSC’s Paediatric Epilepsy Program and recommended Ethan for the procedure.
"The robot, on its own, contains software that correlates the direction where the electrodes are going to be placed and also avoids damaging any blood vessels or any structure there," she explains.
"So everything can be planned in advance, via the software. And the robot, on its own, knows exactly which trajectory the electrodes should go.
For Ethan, the seizures were limiting, "It's stopped me going to night camp, that type of stuff. Going to sleepovers."
Ethan's mom, Anita, who requested their last name not be used, says the seizures affected the entire household, "The whole family didn't sleep because somebody seizing at night is scary."
But that all changed for the family last October. When the electrodes were removed in late October, brain surgery was performed and Ethan has been seizure-free since that time.
Andrade says, while this procedure has benefits for adults, the benefits for children and adolescents is even more profound.
Young brains continue to develop until a person is about 25 years old and seizures can affect that development, and they often amplify over time, causing lasting impacts.
Addressing the issue early can make a significant difference when it comes to quality of life.
Anita says the procedure has already made a tremendous difference, "We've been on edge for five to six years. And so to exhale…this is the miracle stuff that you think, ‘Oh my god. We're lucky.’"
It also meant they could scale back medications that can dramatically impact Ethan's energy level and ability to concentrate.
And Ethan has been able to get back to doing things he enjoys - things many 14 year olds enjoy, "Video games, I like, do social media on my phone. I like to do lots of football. I like hanging out with my friends."
Andrade says the SEEG approach also means a procedure that will often take up to 10 hours can be done in two to three hours. And it dramatically reduces the risk of complications.