Entries in gelastic seizures (1)


New Surgery Offers Hope to Kids With Dangerous Giggling Seizures

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- For the first time, in an experimental pilot program at Texas Children's Hospital, doctors are using real time MRI-guided lasers to destroy lesions that cause laughing seizures in epilepsy patients.

"This MRI-guided laser ablation have increased our accuracy and our safety and our worry factor," said neurosurgeon Dr. Daniel Curry, who, along with Wilfong, is behind this potential breakthrough.

For a rare number of children, laughter can signal a potentially devastating, even fatal future, and their parents will do anything to make the laughter stop.

"The giggling when he was young was such an endearing type of a giggle that we thought it was his normal giggling," Robin Dysart of San Antonio, Texas, said about son Keagan. "Until we realized he was giggling at inappropriate times. There wouldn't be anything to laugh about."

Karen Williams of Toronto noticed the same strange behavior in her son, Mateo.

"There's a forcedness to it," she said. "It almost looks like there's something else that's possessing the laughter."

They are called gelastic seizures, and appear as spontaneous, uncontrollable and often maniacal giggles or laughter. They are short and unpredictable. The cause: a rare form of epilepsy called Hypothalamic Hamartoma (HH) in which a non-cancerous lesion wreaks havoc in a highly sensitive area near the brain's stem. Too often the laughter goes undiagnosed.

Left untreated, the laughing seizures caused by HH can cause long-term behavioral and cognitive damage. Some children grow up so debilitated that they live with their parents. Some have even been institutionalized.

For years, little could be done to stop the laughing seizures, short of an invasive craniotomy. Fraught with danger, the brain is separated, carved open and the lesion, deep in the brain's center, cut out. The risks are every parent's nightmare: a possible loss of sight, uncontrollable urination, stroke and even death if the kidneys shut down.

"And that's what led us to want to explore new technologies to be able to get to these deep centers in the brain, without having to do traditional surgery," said Dr. Angus Wilfong, the medical director at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio