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Health Team

Epileptic children cured by laser surgery

Posted July 22, 2011 1:31 p.m. EDT
Updated July 25, 2011 5:59 p.m. EDT

— A 9-year-old boy became one of the first children to undergo a groundbreaking laser treatment to destroy brain lesions that cause epilepsy and seizures.

Keagan Dysart used to have uncontrollable giggle fits two or three times every hour. Sometimes, he would suddenly become stiff and unresponsive.

"With his seizures, you never knew when or where it would happen. It was very scary for us," his father, Khris Dysart, said.

Doctors diagnosed Keagan with epilepsy, which affects 3 million Americans, including 300,000 children. Uncontrollable seizures can affect a child's memory, motor skills and school performance.

Medication didn't work for Keagan, so he recently underwent a new, minimally invasive surgery at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.

"It's a very exciting breakthrough that, we think, can transform the lives of people living with this devastating disease," said Dr. Angus Wilfong, a neurosurgeon at Texas Children's Hospital.

In the past, epilepsy patients would have undergone a craniotomy, which involves cutting open part of the skull.

However, the new technique allows doctors to enter the skull through a much smaller hole, lowering the risk of infection and significantly reducing recovery time. Surgeons shine a laser through the hole, targeting brain lesions that cause seizures.

Doctors at Texas Children's Hospital have performed this surgery on six children from 5 to 15 years old. In all cases, the patients have been seizure free since the surgery, and most were released from the hospital between one and five days.

Keagan has been seizure free since his surgery in March, and doctors say he's cured.

His mother says her son's life has changed for the better.

"He's noticing things he never noticed before, like the sunset," Robin Dysart said.