British teen becomes first person to be “cured” of epilepsy


Billy Whitaker, 15, suffered daily seizures for seven years before a £350,000 robot pinpointed the epicentre where his seizures took place reports The Mirror

Billy was the first person at Bristol hospital to have the operation, called robotic stereotactic EEG. The same treatment carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Having experienced epilepsy since the age of eight, Billy has already undergone epilepsy surgery in 2014 to remove part of his brain, which later became unsuccessful. However, with thanks to local fundraising he was selected to be the first candidate to have the surgery.

Neurosurgeons used a state of the art robot to drill electrodes deep into his brain to identify and remove the tissue, which was triggering Billy’s seizures.

Since the five-hour operation, Billy has been seizure-free with medical professionals confident his epilepsy has been cured for life.

Consultant neurosurgeon Michael Carter said:

There were little parts of his brain we suspected were the candidates for causing these residual seizures. We used the robot to implant a series of electrodes using ultra-high, sub-millimetre precision into these small areas of the brain, in order to see if his seizures were coming from them.

In fact, we located the area absolutely beautifully using one of the electrodes and on the strength of that we took him back to theatre a week later and we removed the area of brain tissue that was defined by the examination. We can use the robot to define extremely safe and high precision trajectories through the brain tissue, so that we can implant a number of electrodes through tiny little holes in the skull, with little stab incisions, directly into the areas we want.

It is incredibly well tolerated, and got a very high safety profile, and gives us very high quality recordings. He has been incredibly well since and hasn’t had any seizures. We’re hoping that he’s going to be seizure-free for the future. This event represents a revolutionary transition into the 21st century for epilepsy surgery and absolutely cements our credentials as a premier paediatric epilepsy surgery facility not only for this city, but comparable with anything worldwide.

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