NHNN epilepsy surgery shown on Newsnight 

07/01/2015 00:00 
A short film on Newsnight last night highlighted the difference that surgery carried out at UCLH’s National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery could make to thousands of epilepsy sufferers.

Epilepsy surgery can help some sufferers balance the risk of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy against living with seizures which can prove fatal.

NHNN consultants Ley Sander and Andrew McEvoy featured in the film, made by James Clayton for Newsnight, as did NHNN patient Jamie Atkinson who allowed the BBC to film his operation.

It also features Epilepsy Society supporter Andy Swarbrick, whose daughter Jane died in 2011 aged 24 after she suffered a seizure in the shower.

Both Prof Sander and Mr McEvoy told Newsnight reporter James Clayton how between 10,000 and 15,000 people with epilepsy could benefit from the surgery and yet the UK only carries out about 300 operations a year, most of them at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.

“The fact that not everyone knows that epilepsy can be a relatively malignant condition is part of the problem,” said Prof Sander. “Up to 1,000 deaths a year can be prevented, and these are young people at the prime of their life.”

“It is not for everyone, but if we can fulfil some of the criteria, show that the seizures are coming from a part of the brain that is non-eloquent, we can get a surgeon to take it out and make that person’s life much better.

NHNN patient Jamie Atkinson spoke about how the epilepsy seizures affected his memory and sometimes wiped out memories of life with his children. He said from his home yesterday: "I am feeling amazingly well. No seizures, as far as I know. Apart from a bit of a sore head I have not had any other effects from the surgery."

Mr McEvoy said: “The surgery went extremely well, so from a technical point of view it was a success. But we want to know that the surgery has been effective and has stopped his epilepsy. While Mr Atkinson may become aware in the next few days that he is not having any seizures, and this is great news, we are after a long term result and so we will not know until a year from now, or five years from now, how effective the surgery has been.”

The surgery cures 60 per cent of people with epilepsy. 10 to 30 per cent suffer minor problems with vision or memory less. About one per cent end up with serious long term problems such as significant memory loss, visual impairment or speech problems.

Mr McEvoy said: "There is a huge underutilisation of epilepsy surgery.”

The film can be seen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04xtqfv/newsnight-06012015

Warning: this film contains some graphic images.

 Latest news

 Contact details

Communications unit
2nd floor central
250 Euston Road
London NW1 2PG

Media enquiries

Switchboard: 020 3456 7890
Media enquiries: 020 3447 7542 / 020 3447 9506
Email: uclh.media@nhs.net

Out of hours
The normal working hours for the Communications Unit are Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm. The only media enquiries that will be answered outside of these working hours are urgent enquiries and those relating to major incidents. To access the out-of-hours service call switchboard on 0845 155 5000.

Share this story