Flushing resident Ruben Serrano’s seizures began at age 6 months. For a while, medications controlled them. But after puberty, he had them every three weeks despite high doses of three anti-epileptic drugs. “The scary part about it was I never knew when they were coming,” Mr. Serrano said. “I would just pass out.”
Last year, at age 21, Mr. Serrano had a two-stage brain surgery at the North Shore- LIJ Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Institute. He’s been seizure-free ever since. He and his family credit the advanced care he received with turning his life around.
Sean Hwang, MD, assistant professor of neurology at the Institute, is the neurologist who coordinated Mr. Serrano’s care. “When I first met Dr. Hwang, I knew he was a good doctor,” Mr. Serrano said. “He explained the treatment process clearly to my whole family.” According to Dr. Hwang, Mr. Serrano’s situation wasn’t that unusual. “Medication works in approximately two-thirds of patients to control their seizures,” he said. Medication may fail in the other one-third of patients because of factors like genetics or drug side effects, which are worse in certain people.
Testing revealed Mr. Serrano’s seizures took place in the right frontal part of his brain. To avoid damaging healthy brain tissue during his first surgery, the surgeons used intracranial video electroencephalography (EEG) monitoring to help further pinpoint the trouble spot. “Video EEG technology records very small electrical signals from brain surfaces projected to electrodes that are placed in areas where we suspect the seizures originate,” Dr. Hwang said. “The video portion helps us align brain activity and seizure symptoms.” The electrodes were also used to stimulate Mr. Serrano’s brain with electrical signals in order to test for functional areas of his brain that needed to be preserved. During the second surgery, the surgeons removed the electrodes — and the exact part of his brain causing the seizures.
“Ruben has done extremely well with regard to his seizure control and did not suffer any ill effects from the surgery itself,” Dr. Hwang said. “He is currently slowly reducing the amount of medications he is taking.” Now, Ruben goes to Long Island by himself every day for a job training program — something he couldn’t have done before the operations. And he has a message for other patients who may need an operation to control their severe seizures: “Your life will be much better after the surgery.”