New Surgery At Cedars-Sinai Provides Hope For Epilepsy Patient Who Has Had A Lifetime Of Seizures

LOS ANGELES (January 26, 1999) -- Mary Kate Welsh was just eight months old, scooting around in her baby walker, when the accident happened. Her walker struck the fireplace hearth and tipped over, dumping Mary Kate -- head first -- onto the hard brick. Her epilepsy, and subsequent seizures, started not long after that blow. "My parents almost lost me," she related. The seizures continued, on and off, for the next 33 years. Finally, thanks to state-of-the-art diagnostic and surgical advancements, Mary Kate's seizures may now be no more than memories.

In December 1998, Mary Kate underwent multiple subpial transections of the language cortex and a selective hippocampectomy, both performed while she was awake by neurosurgeon Michel Levesque, M.D., Director of the Neurofunctional Surgery Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. This relatively rare surgical approach was undertaken after extensive studies determined that Mary Kate's increasingly frequent and disruptive seizures were arising from the language cortex and spreading to the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped segment of the brain that controls language, memory and learning.

"This is the first surgery performed at Cedars-Sinai, while the patient was awake, to disconnect the language cortex without affecting speech," explained Dr. Levesque. "The results are very encouraging, since we've learned we can successfully operate on a seizure arising from the language area of the brain through multiple subpial transections, a procedure performed using microinstruments to 'slice' the language cortex in four millimeter increments."

For Mary Kate, the results are nothing short of miraculous. She's experienced no seizures since the surgery and feels wonderful -- and extraordinarily thankful. "I tell people, if Dr. Levesque was a religion, I'd join," said Mary Kate, laughing. "He's the best."

Though Mary Kate, now 33, had experienced some extended periods without seizures, they always seemed to return and typic

Contact: Sandra Van
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

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