Epilepsy Talk

Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS) Shown to Reduce “Untreatable” Seizures | January 12, 2017

The idea that we can implant a Star Trek-type device that will detect seizures and interrupt them without causing injury is entirely new. And exciting. And scary.

Especially for those people with epilepsy that have seizures that begin at one focal point in the brain, but aren’t appropriate for epilepsy surgery.

Brain stimulation has now been shown to offer significant relief to patients with intractable seizures for whom drugs and other treatments have not worked.

This is the major finding of a first-of-its-kind study of responsive electric brain stimulation in adults with “medically refractory,” or hard to treat, epilepsy.

“For the third of people who have tried two or three medications for their epilepsy, but are still having seizures, the standard of care is removing the abnormal part of the brain that is causing seizures.

Over 50 percent of patients undergoing surgical removal of brain tissue causing seizures will be cured of their epilepsy,” says Jason M. Schwalb, M.D., Director, Movement Disorder and Behavioral Neurosurgery at Henry Ford Health System.

“However, there are people who are not candidates for this type of surgery because of potential side-effects. Until now, we have not had great treatment options. The RNS system is an attractive option for these patients, especially since it is reversible.”

The NeuroPace Responsive Neurostimulation System (RNS) consists of a miniaturized, implanted computer (that’s flat and about the size of a half-dollar). It can detect seizures from electrodes implanted into or on the surface of the brain and then delivers an electrical pulse to stop them.

In clinical trials, 191 adults, ages 18 to 70, whose disabling epileptic seizures had not been controlled by medications, were chosen.

Most of the patients had suffered from epilepsy for 20 years or more and were taking an average of three drugs to control their seizures.

A third had already tried Vagus Nerve Stimulation, (VNS), and the other third had already tried epilepsy surgery.

They were studied at 32 medical sites throughout the U.S. for three years, beginning in late 2005.

The study objective was to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of the RNS System as an adjunctive therapy.

The purpose was to reduce the frequency of seizures in people with partial onset seizures from no more than two focal points that are refractory.

Or for people on two or more antiepileptic medications.

All patients were implanted just under the scalp to a neurostimulator which was connected to insulated lead wires with small electrodes at the end.

Surgeons locate this spot, known as the “seizure focal points,” prior to surgery using a combination of brain imaging and electroencephalogram (EEG) recording.

The leads are then implanted in the patient’s brain or on the brain surface near where seizures are believed to start.

Activity in the brain is directly recorded from surface electrodes on the skull, or electrocorticography (ECoG).

And then, when a seizure is detected by the RNS, a brief, mild electrical shock is delivered to suppress it.

Abnormal brain activity was recorded for a month, and then patients were chosen at random to receive either electric stimulation or to be given “sham,” or no treatment.

The researchers found:

The 97 patients who were treated with the RNS system had 37.9 percent fewer seizures than before surgery.

 Those 94 patients in the sham, or untreated group, had only 17.3 fewer seizures than before surgery.

 When those in the sham group had the RNS system turned on, seizures were significantly reduced.

There was no difference between the two groups in the number of adverse events associated with the treatment.

And the effects of the treatment led to significant improvements in patients’ quality of life at the 1 and 2 year check-up.

(Medically refractory epilepsy patients with frequent seizures are at risk of depression, suicidal thoughts and actions, memory loss, and SUDEP, or sudden unexplained death in epilepsy.)

There was also an improvement in some aspects of cognition.

More good news: The trial also demonstrated less serious adverse events than comparative surgical procedures.

“For people who cannot control their seizures effectively with medication, the data show the RNS System may be a safe and effective treatment option,” said Martha Morrell, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of NeuroPace, Inc. and Clinical Professor of Neurology at Stanford University.

“The results also indicate the device became even more effective over time.

 These findings, drawn from a data set that includes people living with the most difficult type of epilepsy to manage, truly speak to the potential of responsive neurostimulation in controlling seizures.”

Unlike the Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS), Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS) is designed to detect abnormal electrical activity in the brain and respond by delivering electrical stimulation to normalize brain activity before the patient experiences seizure symptoms.

While other devices stimulate the nervous system continuously or in a predetermined pattern, the Neurostimulator implant is unique in that it monitors the brain, delivering jolts of electricity only when it detects the abnormal electrical activity that signals the onset of a seizure.

“It’s like dousing a spark before it becomes a flame,” said Martha Morrell, Neuropace’s chief medical officer.

After surgery, patients go through an optimization period, during which doctors program the RNS to recognize a typical pattern that precedes the seizure and deliver a particular pattern of electrical activity.

With a programmer, a laptop computer with specially designed software — plus a wand and special interface — direct communication is made with the implanted RNS neurostimulator.

Patients wave that wand over the device to download data recorded before and after stimulation, so that physicians can monitor how well these parameters are working and adjust them accordingly.

But Responsive Neurostimulation is not for everybody.

And there are some key disadvantages to the RNS device that should be considered before implantation.

While you cannot feel the implanted device, it does require maintenance and care.

As a battery-powered device, replacement of the batteries will be required every couple of years and replacement of the entire RNS device will also be necessary.

Surgery to implant the RNS device will require a hospital stay generally lasting up to three days.

Battery replacement procedures for the RNS often can be performed on an outpatient basis but, again, will require medical intervention and impose some additional financial cost.

 But the future looks bright.

“Until now, drugs have been the mainstay of therapy for people with epilepsy,” said Dr. Nathan Fountain, a UVA neurologist and director of the F. E. Dreifuss Comprehensive Epilepsy Program.

“The idea that we can implant a Star Trek-type device that will detect seizures and interrupt them without causing injury is entirely new.

 Many people with epilepsy have seizures that begin at one focal point in the brain, but they aren’t appropriate for epilepsy surgery.

 If we show that responsive neurostimulation is safe and effective, then it has the potential to help many patients with epilepsy lead more normal lives.”

The future is here…NOW!


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  1. I don,t want that, I don,t think I need it.


    Comment by michele metzger — January 12, 2017 @ 5:36 PM

    • New sergery’s new drug’s any thing new todo with epilepsy


      Comment by Vicki Blagg — September 11, 2019 @ 2:58 PM

      • There are always cutting edge drugs and surgical techniques in the works. But WE don’t hear about them until they’re approved by the FDA. Which can sometimes take years, after clinical trials.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 11, 2019 @ 3:01 PM

      • I have had 3 brain surgery 2small ones and 1 big one


        Comment by Vicki Blagg — September 11, 2019 @ 3:02 PM

  2. Neither do I, thank goodness.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 12, 2017 @ 6:30 PM

  3. I’m ever so grateful that my VNS works for me!


    Comment by catsissie — January 12, 2017 @ 10:10 PM

  4. Again,, there is NOTHING in this article that the RNS transmitter CAN or WILL regulate how brain chemicals & amino acids like GLUTAMATE will be controlled in the brain, not to mention how it could effect GLUCOSE levels especially in younger brains. Why glucose level tests, ”those 4 to maybe 10 or 12 hour days”,, stop at age 18 seems odd to me, when the seizure condition lasts a lifetime of a person. Where are THOSE concerns first before BIG MONEY surgeries are offered, to maybe find a SIMPLE WAY to control GLUCOSE & GLUTAMATE LEVELS to where a person could be seizure free for LIFE at LE$$ EXPEN$E & LE$$ $TRE$$ for those who have seizures with no A T M cash machine attached to their body. $TRE$$ alone will cause seizures no matter what causes that $TRE$$ because anything you do related to seizures effects a person in the cost of HOW you live your life, that neurologists WILL have control over, at your highest CO$T their answers for your life will be to you, who have seizures. Here’s some REALITY who have seizures.
    1- We are no ATM machine
    2- We want to life like any person who has NO seizures.
    3-Our brain is not any neurologists legal toy to experiment with
    4- Remember the KISS formula,,Keep It Simple Stupid
    5-Make sure to ”listen to the person” who is having the seizure condition they live with.
    6-Do not ignore what we said to you,,after we explain our best what we are living with 365 & 366 days & year.
    7-Future millions made on extreme & seriously dangerous tests done on our brains, no matter if they are BAD or GOOD results from that test, ALL PROFITS SHOULD BE SHARED with that person whos brain is being used for future medical trials & research, that maybe would be improved in the future & better for any doctor to do that test, at a LE$$ EXPEN$E for the same GOOD or BETTER result.
    8- EVERY PERSON who has a seizure condition has given up & sacrificed ENOUGH to live by the worlds & medical limited ways & rules, from having a LE$$ of a limited to having nothing for a life.
    9- Every neurologists needs to LIVE the 8 things above to RELATE TO US who have seizures or has to worry about having A seizure during any of the 12 months of every year for life.

    WHO IS ””OUR ADVOCATE”” ? Not food & drug industries, or the banks who supports them both.


    Comment by C D — January 13, 2017 @ 8:09 AM

  5. On Dec. 9,1969, at 14 years of age, i was subjected to unauthorized covert lobotomy, and brain implant experimentation, after my mother was only informed of “scar tissue removal”, This covert implant intrusion, has been hell, with increase and variation in seizure disorder, status epilepticus, continual episodes of cerebral hemmorrahaging in the operative field. and PTSD, when screraming verbal profanities during a local cranium incision. Hard to accept that any form of brain surgery is beneficial for epilepsy, when we have a cloak of secrecy in respect to unauthorized covert research upon minor epileptic subjects. The only beneficial aspect out of this hidden medical child abuse, is clinical evidence that marijuana is number one for blocking seizure disorder. Brain surgery for epilepsy is no church picnic, it is hell, forever. Do not take such risks, which outweigh any benefit. http://www.thewhyfiles.net/mkultra4.htm#update

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by hscguineapig414895 — January 13, 2017 @ 10:37 PM

  6. I agree that nothing comes free and it’s up to us to thoroughly research the facts, circumstances and possible outcomes, before jumping into the abyss.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 14, 2017 @ 9:48 AM

  7. As a trekie and person with Epilepsy, I’d hardly call it a “Star Trek”-like device. I have a Functional Medicine aunt who uses a stimulation device outside the body that’s more “Star Trek”-like and even looks more similar to the tricorder. “Star Trek” devices don’t even touch the inside of the body, sure the might inject you with little robots or something, but never would implant something inside the body. The RNS is just placed differently than the VNS, that’s why it can detect it sooner, but you still have to take more out to replace the battery. I have a VNS, and have had it since 2004, with 2 battery replacements. Yeah the RNS and VNS are more high tech, but it doesn’t come close to “Star Trek” comparison unless it’s outside the body!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Alainna Robles — January 15, 2017 @ 12:43 PM

  8. Thanks for the clarification, Alainna.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 15, 2017 @ 1:10 PM

  9. Please send this information to my email account below. I would like to share with my doctors.


    Comment by Casey Landes — January 24, 2017 @ 11:38 AM

  10. Can I have Vagus Nerve Stimulator and Responsive Stimulator at the same time. On another subject. I have inspirational seizure book completed and working on currently. Do know of a place these can published? I have a limited income from my disability which is only source of income. I have not beien able to work since 2009 when doctors retired me. I know feeling of amount of years. Currently I am going on 44 years of seizures on them. Thank You for response about responsive stimulation. Casey Landes


    Comment by Casey Landes — January 24, 2017 @ 7:28 PM

    • See if I can’t have a VNS and RNS at the same time. This is really the pits for me and actually would have had them come out before. Not their fault though. I take up almost 2000 mg a day for medicines; Onfi, Depakote, Banzel, and Latrogrime and tried over 20+. My seizure length is going on about 44 years now and I am 46. There is no auras and intractable. I have already have a VNS but doesn’t seem to help because have 3-5 seizures a day, most partial-complex or in some cases could be gran-mal unless didn’t have helmet. My battery for VNS was replaced about 1 1/2 ago but no signaling of anything before new battery put into. Despite that it still doesn’t seem to work and they keep bringing signaling higher. I have lost jobs, girlfriends, friends, and now retired. I need new help and if this thing is available to be covered by Med-Care or Medicaid I am almost ready. Will talk with Neurologist first of course. Would have liked to be one of those case studies. I was going to be a study in San Francisco when surgery first came out but found I had seizures on both sides of brain and couldn’t do. I have learned a great things from my seizures but it’s time for EMTs/nurses/doctors knowing by name, and hundreds of hospitals doctors, around 500-1000+ seizures a year, use of wheelchairs at times, and the helmet to name a few. My book want published is called “Smile There Is More” is about we all have same memories and that includes people with difficulty. Sorry for leaving such a self centered and long reply. Thanks for your information.


      Comment by Casey Landes — May 1, 2017 @ 1:40 PM

      • Casey can you have the VNS replaced with an RNS?

        I don’t think Medicare or Medicaid will offer financial assistance, because it’s pretty new. Your neurologist would probably know for sure.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 1, 2017 @ 2:44 PM

      • I’ve talked to people who have had both, but it doesn’t work out. As the neurosurgeon I had when I had to have a Corpus Callosotomy to slow down my neurons because they were “too excited” meaning there’s too much electricity that causes seizures like Generalized Tonic-clonics. I had to have them slowed down just to have my Internal EEG prior to my right frontal resection(which sadly didn’t help my Complex-Partials). Having both causes more electricity therefore causing more seizures when you combine the two. If you have the VNS removed though, they will leave part of the lead in because it is wrapped around the Vagus Nerve, but it will no longer be connected to anything, so it won’t be functional. The RNS can have 2 leads going into the brain to target your seizures more. Best wishes on your book too.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by trekkie80sgirl — September 12, 2019 @ 4:54 AM

  11. Hi Casey, no I don’t believe you can have a VNS and RNS at the same time.

    As for publishing your book, would you consider self-publishing on Amazon?

    I haven’t done it (so I don’t know the ins and outs) but some of my friends have.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 24, 2017 @ 7:35 PM

    • My son has both they Re completely separate units ..

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Lori Ann — February 17, 2020 @ 11:16 AM

  12. My son has had both the Vns & Rns now along with meds and his seizures are actually worse .. we knew going in that the Rns implant could possibly cure his seizures by knocking them down and out …but we weren’t expecting them to worsen . We are great full that now after 23 years of meds and diets and avoiding all his triggers ,. That he is still here fighting the fight hasn’t succome to sudep but it’s so frustrating and difficult to navigate ..what’s best to try and what’s worth the risk . Each and everyone one of knows what we would do to cure this horrific neurological condition that so many of us caring for or advocating for a loved one with epilepsy . We are choosing to see this as new information that we didn’t have . The Rns stimulation stopped and has controlled his left sided episodes completely since 2017 but worsened the episodes coming thru on his right side ..so we now have been offered the resection surgery for his right side ,,, but my son is worried about the resection changing his ability to self care .. he’s concerned about coming out of surgery different loosing who he is and that’s normal and understandable but for us his parents siblings nieces that all care and love him we worry about sudep .And status … we were recently doing pre op testing for the resection to see if we could get to the point of sitting with his team and being shown a surgical plan and what to expect for rehab etc and found out that his Rns battery after only 3 years and 8 months needs to be replaced first because he’s hD so much activity going on the battery has almost depleted… good news is the new battery will last twice as long , it’s day surgery in/ out in less than 12 hours if there are no complications and .. we can possibly schedule the resection surgery the following month if things go well with his wada testing.. yes some people get seizure control ..with meds some get seizure control with diets some with implants some with multiple implants some with surgery and some with all the above .. some never get seizure free with all of it .. but we fight .. we pray ..we share .. we educate and we never forget .. the ones we’ve lost .
    Share your story 💜 Advocate 💜 Epilepsy Awareness matters 💜 we won’t give up 💪💜 Believer in fighting for a Cure 💜we aren’t alone .. 💜🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Lori Ann — February 17, 2020 @ 11:15 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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