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Aurora BayCare brings epilepsy surgeon to region

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Interdisciplinary program first of its kind in northeastern Wisconsin

For epilepsy patients like Todd VanDenBerg of De Pere, choosing surgery to treat epilepsy has always meant traveling far away from home -- until December. That's when Aurora BayCare Medical Center began offering patients with uncontrolled seizures the option of a full-range of epilepsy treatments through its interdisciplinary program.

"I've had seizures for more than 30 years," said the 46-year-old Vandenberg, one of more than three million Americans in the U.S. that are affected by epilepsy. "I've been living with my mom, I can't drive and I can't get a job. So, for most of my life, I've tried to get rid of my seizures, but nothing ever worked."

Just before Christmas, VanDenBerg became the first patient in northeastern Wisconsin to have brain surgery for epilepsy performed close to home. Previously, patients who wanted this surgery had to travel as far as Milwaukee or Marshfield. Aurora BayCare Neurosurgeon Steven Weinshel, MD, performed the surgery Dec. 21.

Members of the NeuroCare Brain and Spine Center at Aurora BayCare announced the new procedure Thursday, stressing that the goal of its epilepsy program is to help people lead a normal life by stopping or at least reducing the amount of seizures through a comprehensive program that includes the option of surgery when other treatments fail to provide a seizure-free life.

"Only two-thirds of all epilepsy patients achieve good seizure control with anti-epileptic medications," said George Morris, MD, epileptologist and medical director of the regional epilepsy program at Aurora BayCare. "There are other options for these patients."

A craniotomy is a procedure commonly done for other conditions such as brain tumors, but this is the first time a craniotomy has been performed in Green Bay for the purpose of removing brain tissue to stop seizures. Another surgical treatment option is a Vagus Nerve Stimulator implant, however this had not been effective for VanDenBerg.

"Some patients with epilepsy struggle to live a normal life," said James Napier, MD, neurologist at Aurora BayCare. "Having a wide range of treatment options available under one roof provides hope for these patients."

Statistically, nearly 400 new Brown County residents will seek treatment for seizures each year. VanDenBerg wants them to know there are options available that can help.

"I was tired of taking medications everyday," said VanDenBerg. "They really weren't helping and besides, I couldn't function normally on them. Now, I am looking forward to live a better quality of life. I hope to get a drivers license and find a part-time job."
Aurora BayCare Medical Center is a 167-bed, full-service tertiary care hospital located at 2845 Greenbrier Road on Green Bay's east side. It opened in September 2001 as a joint effort of Aurora Health Care and BayCare Clinic.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora offers services at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

BayCare Clinic is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in Northeast Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is comprised of 100 specialty physicians with expertise in more than 20 specialties. BayCare Clinic physicians have served patients in Green Bay and the surrounding region for more than 25 years.


Contact: Krissy Behnke (920-496-6365)

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