A Fast Track to Seizure Freedom at Lurie Children's

November 12, 2020

Dr. Lam, left, and Dr. Wu

Children with epilepsy have access to world-class care at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, bolstered this fall by the addition of Joyce Wu, MD, as the hospital’s new head of the Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Program.

Dr. Wu is nationally recognized for her expertise and research in tuberous sclerosis complex — an inherited disease which affects the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and skin, and is associated with epilepsy and developmental disorders such as autism. Dr. Wu also is well-known for her research in using novel EEG technology to detect high frequency oscillations to further understand the basis of seizures and improve the outcome of epilepsy surgery.

Dr. Wu came to Chicago from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Mattel Children’s Hospital where she was the founder and Director of the Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Program. At Lurie Children’s, Dr. Wu leads a team of pediatric epileptologists, advanced practice nurses, medical education specialists, research doctors, research professionals, neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, dietitians and social workers. They work closely with the Division Head of Neurosurgery, Sandi Lam, MD, MBA.

Dr. Lam is one of the few pediatric neurosurgeons in the world offering minimally invasive endoscopic hemispherotomy surgery. In this procedure, half a patient’s brain — the one where the seizures originate — is disconnected or removed, so that the seizures cannot propagate to the other side of the brain. Dr. Lam specializes in the full spectrum of pediatric epilepsy surgery, including responsive neurostimulation, other neuromodulation, stereoencephalography (sEEG), stereotactic laser ablation and pediatric cerebrovascular surgery. Taken as a whole, the pediatric neurosurgery and epilepsy surgery program has a focus on minimally invasive and endoscopic techniques for quality, safety and enhanced recovery after surgery.

The two providers with their teams helm the hospital’s comprehensive epilepsy and epilepsy surgery center, including one of the largest dietary therapy clinics for epilepsy.

“I see epilepsy as an emergency, that the brain is taking a hit, which can be especially devastating in a developing brain,” Dr. Wu said. “We treat childhood epilepsy like we treat strokes in adults — time is of the essence and there is a window to intervene for maximum impact.”

With urgency in mind, Lurie Children’s will launch next year a rapid response epilepsy clinic, putting at-risk children on a fast-track to seizure freedom, medically or surgically depending on their needs.

Furthermore, Lurie Children’s Divisions of Neurosurgery and Neurology have this year expanded their telemedicine programs to help more children across the country, providing access to second opinions to families virtually.

Beyond excellent clinical care, the epilepsy team has synergy in transformative epilepsy research. The team works with renowned epilepsy epidemiologist Anne Berg, PhD, at Lurie Children's and with pharmacology professor Alfred George, MD, in pharmacogenomics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. The ambitious overall vision of the pediatric epilepsy program is to advance research from bedside to bench, and back to the patients' bedside, and then to the population at large.

Lurie Children's Epilepsy Program has been recognized as a Level 4 program by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC) in recognition of the high-quality specialized epilepsy care that voluntarily meets the association’s rigorous criteria. The hospital is ranked 11th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for pediatric neurology and neurosurgery. The Division of Pediatric Neurology sees one in three children hospitalized at Lurie Children's. More families bring children with neurologic conditions to us for care or for second opinions than to any other single hospital in the state.