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Published on April 10, 2012

MU Health Care Epilepsy Program Receives Highest Designation For Care

COLUMBIA, Mo. ― The Missouri Epilepsy Program at University of Missouri Health Care has been designated a Level 4 epilepsy center by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC). Level 4 epilepsy centers provide the highest levels of medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy.

Levels of epilepsy care have been developed by the NAEC as a tool for evaluating the appropriateness and quality of specialized programs. A fourth-level center must provide the more complex forms of intensive neuro-diagnostic monitoring, as well as more extensive medical, neuropsychological and psychosocial treatments. Fourth-level centers also offer complete evaluation and treatment programs for epilepsy, including intracranial electrodes for detecting the exact location of epilepsy in the brain. They also provide a broad range of options for treating epilepsy, including medicinal and surgical procedures.

“We’re honored that our center is being recognized for the care we provide our patients,” said David Lardizabal, M.D., a neurologist and director of the epilepsy program at University of Missouri Health Care. “Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions, affecting approximately three million Americans. Yet many myths and misconceptions hinder understanding, diagnosis and treatment of the disease. To be recognized as a leader in epilepsy care is a great distinction.”

Epilepsy is a seizure disorder characterized by abnormal electrical activity in the brain that affects how a person feels or acts for a short period of time. Seizures are a symptom of epilepsy and can be related to an injury or family tendency. The severity of the seizure will depend on the specific area of the brain involved.

There are several kinds of seizures related to epilepsy. The most well-known is the grand mal seizure, in which an individual loses consciousness and usually collapses. Loss of consciousness is followed by violent jerking, after which the patient goes into a deep sleep. During a grand mal seizure, injuries can occur.

Other types of seizures consist of less dramatic symptoms. Absence seizures, for instance, cause only a short loss of consciousness, usually only a few seconds. The individual typically stares blankly during the seizure and then resumes activity after only moments. An individual may be unaware of the seizure or just feel he has “lost time.”

“Because most epilepsy diagnoses occur in childhood, absence seizures can be confused with attention deficit disorder or even misdiagnosed as ADHD,” said Lardizabal. “This further confuses the diagnostic process and is precisely why specialists from recognized centers need to be involved in evaluating the patient.”

The Missouri Epilepsy Program is a joint neurosciences effort led by Lardizabal; Sean Lanigar, M.D., a neurologist; and Tomoko Tanaka, M.D, a neurosurgeon who provides surgical options for patients whose seizures cannot be managed by medical means. The multidisciplinary team also includes support from radiology, neuropsychiatry, psychology, technology, pathology and social services.

“Having this interdisciplinary group of specialists working together allows us to diagnose and manage the patient holistically,” said Lardizabal. “And now, as a Level 4 center, we have achieved a ranking equal to that of the top academic medical centers in the country for our epilepsy program.”