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Epilepsy Division

The Epilepsy Division medical staff includes Anto Bagić, MD, PhD (Associate Professor); Maria E. Baldwin, MD (Assistant Professor); Richard Brenner, MD (Clinical Professor); Gena Ghearing, MD (Assistant Professor); Arun Antony, MD (Assistant Professor); Rick Hendrickson, PhD (Assistant Professor); Alexandra Popescu, MD (Assistant Professor) and Anne Van Cott, MD (VA Hospital, Associate Professor).

The University of Pittsburgh Comprehensive Epilepsy Center (UPCEC) continues to provide state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment services to adults and children with uncontrolled seizures. The center is a joint program combining the resources of the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Established in 1986, it provides regional referral and consultative services to Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and beyond. Staff specializes in the evaluation and treatment of patients with forms of epilepsy that are difficult to diagnose or manage. The center is led by Dr. Bagić who was named Division Chief in June 2008. With the creation of the Center for Advanced Brain Magnetic Source Imaging (CABMSI), also directed by Dr. Bagić (now reorganized as the UPMC Brain Mapping Center)   the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is one of the first facilities in the world to offer whole-head MEG evaluations to patients with intractable epilepsy and various brain disorders.

The center includes clinical and research facilities for adults and children. Adult epilepsy is studied and treated in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center facilities in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. Research conducted at the Epilepsy Center has contributed to the introduction of seven new antiepileptic drugs over the past decade.

The epilepsy clinical care facilities of the University of Pittsburgh Epilepsy Center and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center include:

  • Six adult epilepsy monitoring unit beds for long- or short-term continuous closed-circuit television/electroencephalographic (CCTV/EEG) monitoring
  • Eight pediatric epilepsy monitoring unit beds for long- or short-term continuous closed-circuit television/electroencephalographic (CCTV/EEG) monitoring
  • Adult and pediatric outpatient ambulatory care facilities
  • Dedicated adult and pediatric VNS Clinics
  • Adult and pediatric EEG laboratories
  • Ambulatory digital EEG capabilities
  • Adult Continuous ICU EEG Monitoring Service
  • Pediatric Continuous ICU EEG monitoring capabilities
  • State-of-the-art neurosurgical operating rooms
  • PET scanning facilities
  • Anatomic and functional MRI facilities (including MRI spectroscopy)
  • SPECT scanning facilities (for ictal and interictal studies)
  • Advanced image processing capabilities (for subtraction SPECT studies, MR planar image reconstruction, and MR surface reconstruction for surgical cases)
  • A state-of-the-art magnetoencephalograph (MEG) facility featuring 306 sensors for whole head MEG recording, and 128 channel EEG recording capabilities

The facilities at the center and expertise of the staff allow the staff to:

  • Establish a definitive diagnosis in patients with paroxysmal symptoms of uncertain cause
  • Establish optimal medication regimens to maximize seizure control and minimize side-effects
  • Identify patients with medication-resistant seizures for surgical treatment alternatives
  • Localize epileptic brain regions for resective surgery
  • Map vital or eloquent brain areas in relation to the epileptogenic area
  • Perform epilepsy surgery
  • Conduct detailed neuropsychological evaluations
  • Monitor antiepileptic drugs and their metabolites in relation to seizures, cognitive function, other drugs, and environmental or physiological factors that affect antiepileptic drug disposition
  • Conduct clinical trials of investigational new drugs
  • Diagnose and treat psychogenic seizures
  • Offer a range of rehabilitation and psychosocial services and referrals

Epilepsy Division faculty members are involved in diverse research efforts ranging from the role of continuous EEG in treating acutely ill patients in the ICU (Drs. Brenner, Ghearing and Popescu), various specific aspects of epilepsy in elderly and veterans (Drs. Van Cott and Hendrickson), brain computer interface (BCI) research in collaboration with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (Drs. Bagić, Ghearing and Popescu), to studying patients with dementia and hand transplant recipients using MEG (Dr. Bagić) and social aspects of epilepsy focused on public perception of persons with epilepsy (Dr. Bagić).

Other recent and ongoing research includes collaborative efforts between the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery. This research includes an NIH-sponsored pilot trial of radiosurgical treatment for mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (ROSE). Another NIH-funded collaborative research endeavor involves new methods of video-EEG data compression; initial results of this ongoing work have been presented at national and international symposia.

The members of the Division contribute to the book chapters and regularly present at national and international conferences, while their individual publications can be found in PubMed/MEDLINE. Dr. Brenner’s “EEG on DVD-Adult: An Interactive Reading Session” is a very popular medical educational material, while his “Atlas of EEG in Critical Care” (authored with Dr. Lawrence J Hirsch) is gaining popularity. Dr. Bagić recently published a series of articles pertaining to the practice of clinical MEG.

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