Updated: Five Unusual Epilepsy Treatments

There is probably a statute of limitations for the acceptability of updating blog posts, but I am going to cheat on this one. I’ve updated this with a couple more treatments.

While doing research on epilepsy treatments for my comparison chart, I came across some unusual things people have tried that have supposedly worked to reduce seizures. Here are five.

1. External Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Gentle stimulation to the vagus nerve is said to reduce or stop seizures. The accepted treatment is to surgically implant a sort of pace-maker under the skin that attaches to a wire wrapped around the vagus nerve in the neck (or into the brain in the case of deep brain stimulation). We are actually considering this for Lydia. However I found an interesting alternative. It is almost like an ipod with headphones that stimulate the vagus nerve through the ear! It would certainly be preferable to try this before getting the surgery. However the device is only available in Germany, Austria and Italy, still might not work for her, and probably costs a lorry-load of euros.Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 10.49.01 AM


There’s also a vagus nerve neck-zapper thing by another company but it is marketed for headaches and is also not approved for use in the US, probably costs a ton, etc. Nor is it clear if they’ve ever made more than a prototype of this yet. But it looks interesting.

Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 11.01.43 AM


And there’s another approach with this forehead patch looking thing- http://www.neurosigma.com/tns.html

2. The Mozart Effect

Various researchers and doctors have carried out studies to look at how listening to Mozart K448 may have an effect on people with epilepsy. In 1998, researchers asked 29 people with epilepsy to listen to Mozart K448 while having an EEG test. For 23 people who took this test, the EEG test showed less epileptiform activity in their brain while they were listening to the music. In a 2011 study, 47 of 58 children with focal epilepsy who listened to Mozart K448 once a day also showed a decrease in epileptiform activity. In another study, 8 of 11 children became seizure free or had a high reduction in their seizures during the months they listened to the music. Anyway, can’t hurt right?


3. Omega-3s, DHA, EPA

There are a lot of anecdotal stories of omega-3s, DHA and EPA helping to reduce seizures. There is at least one study on EPA. The study looked at 10 patients who were on between 1 and 4 antiepileptic drugs. Patients were administered 1,000 mg of EPA daily for 12 weeks, in concurrence with their existing treatment, and recorded seizure activity throughout the study. After 3 months, 6 patients recorded a reduction of seizures in response to EPA supplementation. I am waiting to hear back from Lydia’s ketogenic diet nutritionist on supplements that might work for her. She has some DHA in her formula. Worth a try.



4. Hyperbaric Oxygen 

This treatment involves sitting in a high pressure chamber where the amount of oxygen is increased up to 100%. The increased pressure causes the body to get a higher concentration of oxygen faster than if using a traditional oxygen mask. The logic for using hyperbaric oxygen treatment is that the increased oxygen helps heal lesions in the brain. It is rumored to be helpful for autism, developmental delays and seizures.

There are a few anecdotal miracle stories online which make me want to try this immediately:


However there is little concrete evidence of any efficacy and the treatment may actually cause seizures as summarized by this article:


5. Stem Cell Therapy

The injection of stem cells into mice has been very effective at treating seizures. That is all there is to say about studies, testing and treatment in the US. It is a promising treatment, however the technology is not quite available for people and is not yet safe. Here is a good summary of the research so far:  http://www.cureepilepsy.org/breakthrough

Apparently desperate parents have been known to take their kids to other countries for injections that would be illegal here in the US. Here is what I found on infantilespasmsproject.org:

Sadly, there are countless web testimonials from parents of children who have received these therapies, and from unscrupulous practitioners who provide these therapies (almost always outside the United States). These testimonials are often misinformed, and at times, the false scientific claims are so egregious as to inspire criminal investigation.

Well okay then! I guess we’ll stick with the Mozart and fish oils . . . sigh.