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Laser ablation for pediatric epilepsy


Some children who have seizures don’t get better with medicines or dietary changes. In those cases, surgery can help make seizures stop happening, or happen less often. 

At Children’s Hospital, we perform laser ablation surgery to help some children live more normal lives, with fewer seizures and less recovery time than other surgeries. Our hospital is of only a few children’s hospitals that offers this treatment.

What is laser ablation surgery for epilepsy?

Laser ablation surgery is also called laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT). At Children’s Hospital, we use this procedure to very carefully target the area of the brain causing seizures. We don’t have to open the bone covering the brain to do this surgery. Your child may only have to stay in the hospital one or two days after it is done.

Is laser ablation surgery for epilepsy right for my child?

Maybe. Your child may benefit from laser ablation surgery if their seizures have not gotten better after at least two treatment attempts with medicines, or if dietary changes have not helped.

Our team will do tests on your child to find out if laser ablation surgery might help. It also depends on what kind of epilepsy your child has. Certain kinds respond better to this type of surgery.

How do we perform laser ablation surgery for epilepsy?

Our team will do tests to find the part of your child’s brain that is causing seizures. We will then schedule the laser ablation surgery with you.

On the day of the surgery, we will give your child medicine to help them sleep. We then make a small incision in the scalp, and a pencil-sized hole in the skull bone.

One of our doctors will use a robot to accurately guide a tiny probe into the brain. Once the probe is inserted into the area (focus) causing the seizures, a laser causes the probe to heat up. This heat destroys the seizure-causing brain cells, but leaves other parts of the brain alone. Finally, the doctor removes the probe and sews the scalp closed. The surgery usually takes a few hours.

We will check on your child as they wake up from the medicine. We may need to keep them in the hospital for another night or two for more tests.

Your child will need to come back to our clinic for some tests to make sure the surgery worked.

Why choose Children’s Hospital for laser ablation surgery for epilepsy

  • diploma, award, ribbon, Recognized care, quality
    A recognized leader

    The National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC) identifies Vanderbilt as one of the only Level 4 centers in Tennessee. Level 4 centers have the highest level of medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy.

  • conference, Team approach, people, staff, partners
    A team-based approach

    With experts in pediatric neurology, pediatric neurosurgery, diet and nutrition, pharmacy and nursing, we have the expertise to treat even the most complex seizures and offer dietary and surgical options for epilepsy management.

  • conversations, dialog, word bubbles, Support
    Support staff

    Our program coordinator helps you navigate your child’s treatment, from scheduling tests to obtaining medical records or insurance authorizations. They can also answer any questions, help you find lodging near Vanderbilt and refer you to other epilepsy resources.

Dr. Robert Naftel: Surgery for Epilepsy Treatment