Ask the Expert: Seizures and Seizure Medication

QUESTION:
I was diagnosed with a brain tumour in late January after having a seizure at work. The surgeon said he got the entire tumour out. For some reason I still have seizures or sometimes just the feeling that I’ll have a seizure, but then the seizure doesn’t come. I’m taking Dilantin, but it makes me feel groggy and affects my thinking. When can I stop this medicine, or should I be on a different medicine? And when will the seizures stop happening?


ANSWER:
The brain is a large bioelectric organ. This electrical activity needs to be tightly regulated by maintaining an appropriate and consistent microenvironment around the electrical cells, called neurons. Epileptic seizures occur when that microenvironment is disrupted, allowing neurons to discharge haphazardly and spontaneously. There are many events that can injure the brain and disrupt the neurons’ environment. Examples include brain tumours, infection, stroke, and scar tissue from surgery or trauma. Many brain tumour patients remain at risk for seizures, even after a successful surgery, because the brain tissue never heals back to its original state, and thus that delicate balance of electrical activity remains disrupted.

If seizures are completely controlled, patients can sometimes eventually wean off their anti-seizure medication. Studies have shown that successful discontinuation of medication varies with the length of time a patient has remained seizure-free. Basically, the longer you have gone without seizures, the better your chances are of remaining seizure-free off the medication. This typically means 3-5 years of treatment. For those who continue to be at high risk for seizures or who are incompletely controlled with their medication, there are many options available for treatment. You are not confined to one drug, and under the guidance of a neurologist, you can usually find a medication regimen that can give you the right combination of seizure control and favourable side effect profile.

DOWNLOAD THIS ARTICLE (PDF)

Thank you to Dr. Brian Thiessen for providing his expertise and to BC Cancer Agency for allowing the reproduction of this article.

About the Author: Dr. Brian Thiessen is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Division of Neurology at Vancouver General Hospital and the Department of Medical Oncology, BC Cancer Agency. He has also been a speaker at Brain Tumour Information Day Conferences and is a 2004 Research Grant Recipient for his project on the molecular genetic analysis of tumour progression in oliogodendrogliomas. The main objective of Dr. Thiessen’s research was to identify the key molecular alterations that underscore tumour progression and treatment-refractory behaviour in oliogodendrogliomas.

< Return to all Information Sheets

Share This

Featured Story

Grey Matters - Blogger Tuesdays

Have you seen our blog lately? Read about people who are making a difference in the brain tumour community from our staff and volunteers to our donors, funded researchers, and medical experts. You will find advice, news, information, and interesting stories about people affected by a brain tumour. Who doesn't love a good story? You won't want to miss the inside scoop Grey Matters has in store for you!

Learn more

Spotlight

Roy and the Gamma Knife – A Happy Tale

I had headaches, almost daily, for 10 years or more. It was a rare day if I did not have a headache. I used to joke that I should own...

Learn more

Courtney’s Story of Stability

Stability. It’s a strange concept when you have what it known to be a progressive, life long illness. You hear the words, “Your tumour...

Learn more

Upcoming Events

  • 19/Apr/2018: Virtual Support Group East: Virtual Support Group for Eastern Canada... Learn more >
  • 20/Apr/2018: Caregiver Wellness Day: Royal Oaks Golf Club, Moncton, NB... Learn more >
  • 25/Apr/2018: Toronto Support Group: Meets at Wellspring Westerkirk House at Sunnybrook, Toronto, ON... Learn more >
  • 25/Apr/2018: Ottawa Support Group: Meets at the Maplesoft Centre at 1500 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa, ON.... Learn more >
View All Events >
Thank you to the donors whose contributions make this website and all programs, services and research possible.

Copyright © 2018 Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Charitable Registration #BN118816339RR0001