September 28, 2007

Child epilepsy monitoring unit makes debut

Featured Image

Sharon Bateman, L.P.N., places electrodes on patient Jerold Parks, 8, from Hazel Green, Ala., as Fatima Abdullahi of the Epilepsy Lab looks on. Parks was the first patient in the new Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at Children’s Hospital. (photo by Neil Brake)

Child epilepsy monitoring unit makes debut

Last week, the ribbon was cut, the first patients arrived and the seventh floor “C pod” at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt officially became home to the new pediatric epilepsy monitoring unit.

The two-bed unit is equipped with electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring equipment and a video camera so that patients suspected of having a seizure disorder can get an accurate diagnosis and a refined treatment plan.

An average of four patients a week, or about 200 children a year, are expected.

Down the hall, in what was formerly a physician's work room, EEG technologists will observe the computer readouts for the EEGs and watch the video cameras to match any physical symptoms of seizure with signs from inside the young patients' brains.

“It's a diagnosis that takes time and a fair amount of technology to do right,” said Paul Schmitz, associate director of the Neurosciences Lab.

“We have some patients who will spend one admission finding the location of the source of their seizures, then will have surgery to place what is called a “grid” to further refine the location, then that patient will be monitored again to treat a very precise portion of the brain. That can take several days and a team of people to complete.”

For the last several years, children who had signs of epilepsy had three choices: go to the adult epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) for evaluation, have a specially arranged series of tests with mobile equipment at the Children's Hospital, or be sent out of state for that service.

“If they were under the age of 5 or had a high risk of serious side effects from their seizures, we usually sent them to a pediatric epilepsy monitoring unit out of state,” said Laurel Roberts, R.N., nursing administrative director at the Children's Hospital.

“So having the ability to provide this specialty service within Children's Hospital is very important for these patients.”

The first patient to arrive was Jerold Parks, 8. He had been diagnosed with a seizure at his local hospital in Huntsville, Ala. His parents started looking around for the best hospitals and chose Children's Hospital.

“It is just really nice here and a really pleasant experience. The whole team is just great,” said Jerold's mother, Cassie Parks.

— Lauretta Konradi contributed to this story