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A better way to diagnose epilepsy

Thomas Henry, M.D.

Using state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, University of Minnesota Medical School researchers may have uncovered a better approach to diagnosing epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder causing repeated seizures or convulsions. The most common type is temporal lobe epilepsy, which is caused by scarring inside the brain’s hippocampus.

Using a 7 Tesla MRI scanner at the University’s world-renowned Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, a team led by neurologist Thomas Henry, M.D., captured detailed images of the brains of eight people who have epilepsy.

Most standard clinical MRI machines have a strength of 1.5 or 3 Tesla. The higher the field strength, the more detailed the image acquired by the machines.

These clearer MRI images allowed Henry and his colleagues to more accurately find scar tissue associated with temporal lobe epilepsy—a critical finding because when medications fail to control epileptic seizures, it’s often possible for neurosurgeons to remove scars from the brain to stop the seizures. Healthy parts of the brain are left untouched and actually begin to function better after seizures stop.

“There is huge potential here to improve patient care,” Henry says. “When you see how much clearer these 7 Tesla images are compared with standard MRI, it’s sort of like reading fine print with a magnifying glass versus the naked eye. The possibility of using 7 Tesla MRI to find brain lesions that were missed on current brain scans is likely to be very helpful in epilepsy and many other conditions.”

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Keck Foundation. It appeared in the October issue of the journal Radiology.

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