MetroHealth Starts Epilepsy Program, Offers Resources to Patients
About 3.4 million people in the United States have epilepsy, a chronic disorder with the main symptom of recurrent, unprovoked seizures – and MetroHealth wants to ensure those in our community with the disorder have access to the care, resources and education they need to live healthier lives.
Danielle Becker, MD, joined MetroHealth’s Department of Neurology last fall as the Medical Director of Epilepsy.
"When the opportunity came about to develop an epilepsy program at MetroHealth, it was right up my alley," Dr. Becker says. "We want to ensure comprehensive care and that no one falls through the cracks."
Epilepsy is a neurological disease that results in seizures or brief surges of uncontrolled synchronous electrical activity in the brain. A person is diagnosed with epilepsy if they have two or more unprovoked seizures or one unprovoked seizure with an abnormal EEG or MRI.
Causes vary, ranging from neonatal injuries, stroke, tumors, traumatic brain injury or other conditions. And in some cases, there is no known cause.
One in 26 people develop epilepsy in their lifetime.
Dr. Becker's areas of expertise include analyzing and interpreting EEGs (a test that detects the electrical activity of the brain), along with the management and treatment of adult patients with epilepsy. She also has special interests in women's health and neurostimulation.
Dr. Becker says access to newer medications and education are missing for many underserved populations.
"Our team wants to ensure patients understand what the disease is and the importance of remaining consistent with taking their medications,” she said. “And if their medications aren't working, we want to find new ones – there are some out there that are better tolerated with fewer side effects – or other ways to optimize their care."
This could include a surgically implantable device that sends electrical currents to control seizures in the brain or nerves.
To provide additional support to patients, the Neurology and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation departments recently brought on a neuropsychologist who will spend about 40% of her time in the Epilepsy Clinic providing information about mental health, neuropsychological evaluations to assess the cognitive effects of epilepsy and more.
In addition, there are two prominent non-profit organizations in our area – Empowering Epilepsy and The Epilepsy Association – that provide services and information. MetroHealth's Epilepsy program intends to foster more collaboration with these organizations.
"When you're building a program, it's not only important to treat patients' epilepsy but to treat their mental health and them as a whole, and for them to understand the resources that are out there," Dr. Becker explains.
Dr. Becker's also established a clinic day specifically for pregnant patients. For many years, patients who had epilepsy were advised not to get pregnant due to medication issues and risks.
That's not the case today, says Dr. Becker. "It's been proven that it's safe for women with epilepsy to get pregnant if they're on a specific medication and have proper follow up. They and the baby can be monitored, and there's pregnancy counseling. If someone wishes to have a child, epilepsy shouldn't stop that."
MetroHealth patients are seen during each trimester and after delivery.
MetroHealth's team-based care model for epilepsy includes two nurse practitioners, Virginia Edwards, APRN, and Sarah Demko, APRN, as well as a dedicated specialty nurse and medical team assistants. This allows for timely appointments for all patients. Other departments such as Social Work are part of the multi-disciplinary care team.
"They all are crucial. MetroHealth and Neurology have provided me with the resources to build this program and it's exceeded my expectations. Our patients have some of the best support I've seen throughout my career," says Dr. Becker.
Dr. Becker and the Epilepsy Clinic team are welcoming new patients. Telehealth video visits and in-person appointments are available at Main Campus and MetroHealth Parma Medical Center. To learn more, click here or call 216-778-3958.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through four hospitals, four emergency departments, and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites. Each day, our 8,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable health care–through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services–that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit metrohealth.org.