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NHS to offer ‘game-changing’ laser beam therapy to prevent epileptic seizures

The laser therapy targets epilepsy-causing brain tissues without invasive surgery, allowing patients to return home in a day with minimal risk of infection and side effects
The new treatment ensures minimal risk of infection and side effects for epileptic patients

The NHS is set to roll out a new ‘game-changing’ laser beam therapy to treat epileptic patients. Known as Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy (LITT), the treatment uses fibre-optic lasers to target the part of the brain causing seizures without the need for invasive surgery.

According to new NHS England data, one in three epileptic patients cannot control their seizures with drugs alone and require neurosurgery to remove the part of the brain responsible for the seizures.

However, James Palmer, NHS England’s medical director for Specialised Services and a consultant neurosurgeon said that surgery is not suitable for many as the source of the seizures cannot always be localised or sometimes not accessible.

Given this difficulty, he said: ‘The new therapy is game-changing for patients, especially for those who do not get relief from current treatments. Not only will this world-leading technology help replace invasive surgery for patients, which can have a huge impact and take months to recover from, it will also allow clinicians to better target the parts of the brain causing the epilepsy, which dramatically reduces the risks and helps cut patients’ recovery time both in and out of hospital.’

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The laser beam therapy involves a fiber optic laser being inserted into the skull, which can heat and destroy the epilepsy-causing brain tissue. Using an MRI scanner, the clinical team will be able to navigate through the brain to avoid blood vessels and other critical structures.

Patients will be able to return home within 24-48 hours with minimal risk of infection or side effects and can go back to work in a week.

The treatment will be available for eligible patients across England from June, at King’s College Hospital in London and The Walton Centre in Liverpool as specialist national hubs.