Home » Neurology » Measuring successful treatment outcomes for epilepsy, for children like Harry
LivaNova

Measuring successful treatment outcomes for epilepsy, for children like Harry

Michelle Seymour

Lead Nurse for Epilepsy Surgery at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

Kate Watts

Lead Nurse for Epilepsy Surgery at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

Successfully treating epilepsy isn’t simply about reducing seizures, say two lead nurses for epilepsy surgery. It’s also about improving the quality of life for patients and their families.


Treatment for epilepsy — drug-resistant or otherwise — can be challenging and vary for everyone. Ultimately, the aim of any treatment is to stop, reduce or control seizures and improve the quality of life for patients and their families.

Drug resistant epilepsy is such a complex condition that every patient’s needs are different, say Michelle Seymour and Kate Watts, Lead Nurses for the Children’s Epilepsy Surgery Service at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

Click here to learn more about therapy for drug-resistant epilepsy.

“At the beginning of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy we’ll establish what the family and the patient want to achieve,” says Watts.

“Some parents simply tell us: ‘We want to reduce our child’s seizures.’ Others will be more specific and say: ‘We want them to attend school for longer so their education isn’t interrupted’; or ‘We want them to be able to go to sleepovers with their friends and become more independent.’”

It not only can reduce seizure duration, frequency and severity, but can have other benefits, such as improving a patient’s mood and increasing alertness.

Seymour and Watts stress that it’s their role to manage expectations of what any treatment can do. “VNS therapy is not a cure for epilepsy, but we see many cases where quality of life improves” says Seymour. “It not only can reduce seizure duration, frequency and severity, but can have other benefits, such as improving a patient’s mood and increasing alertness. That might not sound like very much, but if it can keep a child at school and help them retain more information, it will have a massive impact on their learning.”

Successful treatment can have knock-on effects in all kinds of ways, explains Watts. “One family told us that, thanks to VNS therapy, their daughter’s communication had improved which had increased her interactions with other children. This, in turn, had improved her behaviour because she wasn’t so frustrated all the time. So, it helped her from a social perspective, which benefitted the whole family.”

Martina Smith

Pictured with son Harry

“How VNS treatment improved my son’s quality of life”

After being diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a drug resistant epilepsy, Harry Smith — now nine years old — had VNS therapy to reduce the frequency and severity of his seizures. His mum, Martina, tells his story.


Harry had his first seizure when he was five months old.

These became more frequent, could be prolonged and he would sometimes need medical intervention to make them stop. I was constantly worried about him.

As he grew, Harry’s epilepsy started to affect his cognitive development.

He was having seizures in his sleep that would affect his day-to-day life and he got tired more quickly than other children of his age.

I was always on the alert for his next seizure.

I was also terrified of seizures happening to him in his sleep, so my sleep was massively affected too. I began having panic attacks and suffered from anxiety.

We tried various anti-epileptic drugs in various combinations, but none worked.

Then, just before Harry turned six, he had a VNS device implanted.

The impact of the VNS therapy has been life-changing.

We were well informed that it wouldn’t be a cure, but it has dramatically reduced the frequency and severity of Harry’s seizures. He’s calmer, his progress academically and socially has accelerated — and, it has improved life for us as a family.

VNS Therapy is suitable for both adults and children with drug-resistant epilepsy. To hear Harry’s full story and more personal experiences, visit vnstherapy.co.uk/learn-more/stories

Next article