Seizures: Loyola Offers SPECT Imaging Scan | News | Loyola Medicine
Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Loyola offers SPECT imaging scan that records brain activity during epileptic seizures

MAYWOOD, Ill. (December 17, 2014) – Loyola University Medical Center now offers epileptic patients an imaging scan that records brain activity during seizures, allowing physicians to pinpoint its source.

The scan is called single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). It highlights the hot spot in the brain where seizures originate. It’s used in patients who are potential candidates for a surgery in which the portion of the brain responsible for seizures, known as the epileptogenic zone, is removed. Surgery is considered only when the area to be removed is not responsible for critical functions. Surgery is an option for patients who do not respond to medications or cannot tolerate the side effects.

A SPECT scan measures blood flow, which increases in the area of the epileptogenic zone during seizures. Prior to undergoing the scan, the patient is admitted to the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, hooked up to a continuous EEG and carefully monitored for seizures. Within seconds of a seizure being detected, a nuclear medicine technician infuses a radiopharmaceutical into the patient.
A radiopharmaceutical is a tracer that emits small amounts of radioactivity. The tracer travels to the brain and marks the area where blood flow increased during the seizure. The area lights up like a hot spot when the patient subsequently undergoes the SPECT scan.

A scan obtained while a patient is having a seizure is called an ictal SPECT. (Ictal means seizure.) It is compared with an interictal SPECT, which is done between seizures.

“This is a very useful technique in cases in which seizures are difficult to localize with an electroencephalogram or in which a patient’s MRI is normal,” said Jorge Asconapé, MD, a professor in the Department of Neurology who specializes in epilepsy.

SPECT scans require close collaboration between the departments of Radiology and Neurology.

New software allows for 3-D modeling of the area of the brain responsible for seizures, said Robert Wagner, MD, medical director of Nuclear Medicine and a professor in the Department of Radiology.

SPECT scans are an example of the advanced diagnosis and treatment options available at a Level 4 Epilepsy Center. Loyola has been designated a Level 4 Epilepsy Center by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. Level 4 is the highest level of specialized epilepsy care available. Level 4 centers have the professional expertise and facilities to provide the highest level of medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy.

Loyola’s Epilepsy Center and Monitoring Services offers a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to epilepsy and seizure disorders for adults and children as young as 2 years old. Pediatric and adult epileptologist consultation and state-of-the-art neuroimaging and electrodiagnostic technology are used to identify and assess complex seizure disorders with short- and long-term monitoring.

Diagnostic technologies – such as MRI, PET, SPECT and neuropsychological testing – are available to identify and assess complex seizure disorders. Loyola’s Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit is equipped with continuous EEG and video monitoring for adults and children and is staffed by trained neurology nurses and certified technologists. Ambulatory EEG can be performed if inpatient monitoring is not required. Inpatient intra-operative epilepsy monitoring is offered in collaboration with neurosurgery.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.