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Epilepsy Diagnosis & Monitoring

Patients will sometimes come to their doctor to discuss "spells" or episodes that could be seizures. Seizures occur when the regular activity of the brain is disrupted, and different types of epilepsy can cause different types of seizures. Individuals can experience seizures and not have epilepsy.

The Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at UI Health (EMU) uses the latest technology to diagnose, monitor, and treat epilepsy. The state-of-the-art equipment allows our team of epilepsy specialists to monitor a patient's brain activity and body movements around-the-clock to provide the best diagnosis and treatment plan.

Diagnosing Epilepsy

Patients at the EMU are evaluated using continuous video electroencephalography, or EEG. EEG measures electrical activity in the brain, and video is used to record any body movements that occur during a seizure. Video EEG allows for a better understanding of seizures and seizure onset. Patients in the unit are monitored continuously day and night to keep the patient safe and to gather all the necessary information. A typical stay in the EMU ranges from three to seven days and is dependent on the frequency and severity of a patient's seizures.

Any medications currently being taken by the patient will stop to observe and record the typical episodes.

If epilepsy is confirmed, further monitoring may assist the care team in diagnosing the specific type of epilepsy, which will play a crucial role in creating the most effective treatment plan.

Pre-surgical Monitoring

Individuals with epilepsy also may be admitted to the EMU for presurgical evaluation.

While epilepsy can often be managed with medication, 30% of epilepsy patients do not respond to their medications and continue to have seizures. In this situation, surgery is the next step for treatment.

The patient will be admitted to the EMU, where they are taken off of their medications under highly controlled conditions. During their stay, our epilepsy specialists record as many seizures as possible. Observing, monitoring, and recording seizures is important because it tells our team where the seizures originated in the brain and helps to determine if surgery is possible.

Patients often will need an additional admission to the EMU - Phase II monitoring - for intracranial recording. This is usually done if an admitted patient's scalp EEG shows they are a potential candidate for surgery.