The NHS has announced its plans to launch an innovative laser therapy – known as laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) – for those diagnosed with epilepsy, who have not previously responded well to other therapies.
The first surgeries are set to take place in early 2023 and potentially benefit up to 150 NHS patients each year, offering hope to thousands of people living with the condition.
The fibre optic laser requires a 1.5mm-wide probe into the skull and destroys the brain tissue which causes epilepsy from the inside by using heat.
The treatment uses an MRI scanner and the specialist clinical team carefully navigates through the brain, avoiding blood vessels and other critical structures, while also monitoring the temperature of the surrounding areas to ensure healthy brain tissue does not overheat.
For those undergoing the treatment, the small wound heals quickly, which allows patients to go home the next day with minimal risk of infection or other side effects.
The launch of the laser is part of the NHS’s Long Term Plan commitment, ensuring patients across the country are able to access the latest treatments available.
NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “This pioneering laser beam treatment for epilepsy patients is life-changing and will offer hope to hundreds of people every year who have not had success in preventing seizures with traditional drugs.
“By replacing invasive neurosurgery with a cutting-edge laser therapy, allowing clinicians to better target the parts of the brain causing the epilepsy, we not only dramatically reduce risks to these patients, but drastically reduce their recovery time both in and out of hospital.
Approximately 600,000 people live with the condition across the UK, and one in three people with epilepsy are unable to control their seizures with drugs alone and may need invasive neurosurgery to remove the epilepsy-causing part of the brain.
NHS medical director for specialised services Professor James Palmer said: “This innovative laser therapy is a game-changing breakthrough for patients who have not had success with traditional forms of treatment to control their seizures and will give those with epilepsy a real chance to live a normal life.