New pen designed to stop seizures

July 12, 2012 3:08:11 PM PDT
Every two minutes someone in the US dies from a neurological emergency. In fact, seizures are one of the most common reasons for ambulance runs. Now a new simple device could help save time and lives.

Seizures come on suddenly affecting one in 100 people or 2.5 million Americans.

Delmetria Grant is one of them. She began having seizures more than a decade ago.

"It's frightening," explains Grant. "You don't know what's going to happen, when it's going to happen."

While most don't last longer than a minute, those with prolonged seizures risk brain damage and death.

"So we know that the faster we can administer some treatment for them," states Dr. Tricia Ting, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Maryland - School of Medicine. "The more likely that person is to stop seizing and to recover from that."

Dr. Tricia Ting says the current standard of care for patients is through an IV.

"But you can imagine how difficult it is when they are trying to access an IV in someone that may be convulsing and moving their arm around," Ting said.

That's why the doctor and her team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine participated in a national trial to test a new auto-injector.

"If you're trying to help someone you would take the cap off and then press this against the muscle and hold it there," she said.

It's similar to the epi-pen used to treat serious allergic reactions. Results from the National Institutes of Health study show 73 percent of patients who received injected seizure medicine were seizure-free when they got to the hospital versus 63 percent of patients who received IV treatment.

"This is a proven therapy to work to stop seizures that are prolonged and dangerous" says Dr. Ting.

Now Dr. Ting says it's only a matter of time before the auto-injectors are in the hands of patients and their families to stop seizures even sooner.

About 55-thousand deaths are attributed to prolonged seizures. While it might take a while until an auto-injector "epi-pen" is approved for caregivers, paramedics can use the auto-injector right now.

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