Mind and Body

Less invasive treatment for epilepsy

Doctors perform a new, minimally invasive procedure using MRI-guided imaging and laser technology to stop their patients' seizures


When Sharon Defeo was a young girl, she experienced a few seizures, but was otherwise happy and healthy.  She got married, started a career and raised a family – but then, 24 years later, her seizures returned.

The seizures lasted about 40 seconds each, during which Defeo would say random words and make motions with her hands.  

“It was happening so frequently and I couldn't control it; I stopped driving,” Defeo said. “I recognized I have to do something about it, and I was in search of the answer.”

So at 50 years old, she decided to seek out the help of neurologists at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York to bring the episodes under control.

Doctors diagnosed Defeo with mesial temporal sclerosis, a scarring of the brain in the middle temporal lobe.  The condition can cause a type of epilepsy, causing partial seizures that can spread and affect the rest of the brain.

Dr. Ashesh Mehta, the director of epilepsy surgery at North Shore-LIJ Health System, recommended surgery to cure Defeo’s condition.

“We do know when there is scarring on one side, and the seizures are coming from that side, if we remove that brain area we have a very high likelihood of completely eliminating someone's seizures,” Mehta said.

To treat Defeo, Mehta performed a new minimally-invasive procedure known as interstitial thermal therapy, which uses MRI-guided imaging and laser technology to lesion the area of the brain causing the seizures.  The procedure involves drilling a small hole in the back of the skull and uses one simple pass of a heated wire to cut the area out.  

“By lesioning it, we’re essentially doing the same thing as taking it out,” Mehta explained.  “But the advantage is, we’re not disrupting anything else.”

According to Mehta, patients who undergo this procedure have a faster recovery period than those who have traditional open-brain surgery.

For more information, go to NorthshoreLIJ.com.