The best care for epilepsy starts with a detailed evaluation. Our team's expertise along with our access to the latest monitoring technologies help us get to the source of even the most complex types of seizures. This information helps us determine which treatments are right for you.
For more information about the Sentara Epilepsy Center or to make an appointment, call us at 877-310-8713.
Epilepsy Evaluation at Sentara: Why Choose Us?
Our epilepsy experts (epileptologists) have many years of experience and are committed to getting you the care you need as quickly as possible. We are often able to make a diagnosis simply by talking to you about the seizures you’re experiencing and reviewing your health history. Our efficient diagnosis allows you to start treatments promptly and lowers your risk of future seizures. Meet our epilepsy experts.
If medications fail to control the seizures or we are unable to confirm that the seizures you’re experiencing are due to epilepsy, you are not out of options. Sentara is the only program in southeastern Virginia offering around-the-clock inpatient epilepsy monitoring. This in-depth evaluation allows us to develop specialized treatment plans that meet your individual needs. Learn more about treatments for epilepsy.
Tests to Diagnose Epilepsy
If we are not able to make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and health history, or we need additional information to determine which type of seizures you are experiencing, we may recommend one or more tests. We offer a broad range of tests in our Norfolk and Virginia Beach clinics. Find a location.
We deliver an accurate diagnosis with the help of:
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) tests: We use an EEG test to detect abnormalities in the brain’s electrical signals. If we need additional information, we may send you home with a wearable EEG device to monitor brain activity over the course of a few days.
- Blood tests: We use blood tests to check for signs of other medical problems that can cause seizures, including liver disease and certain infections.
- Evaluations from other specialists: If we suspect seizures are due to a medical condition other than epilepsy, we refer you to a specialist for additional evaluation, such as a neurologist, cardiologist, or sleep specialist.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): We use a high-definition MRI scanner to produce crisp images of brain structures. MRIs help us detect problems such as tumors that can cause seizures.
- Neuropsychology evaluation: If the seizures are affecting your thinking, memory and mood a psychologist with special training (neuropsychologist) performs an evaluation. We use this information to help you make decisions about daily activities, such as whether you may need additional help at home.
Evaluations to Plan Surgery for Epilepsy
If medications aren't enough to control the seizures you're experiencing, we use specialized testing to determine whether surgery is right for you. We also use evaluations to pinpoint the area of the brain affected by seizures, which helps us plan a safe procedure.
Evaluations before epilepsy surgery include:
- Single-photo emission computed tomography (SPECT): This test uses safe levels of a radioactive substance to measure blood flow in the brain. We use SPECT to determine where seizures start and whether it is safe to perform surgery.
- Functional MRI: We determine whether the spot where the seizures start is near areas that control critical functions such as breathing and speaking. Functional MRIs help us protect sensitive tissue in these areas during surgery.
Specialized Inpatient Evaluations in Our Epilepsy Monitoring Unit
Our inpatient epilepsy monitoring unit is a dedicated 4-bed unit at Norfolk General Hospital. We use the best available technologies to continuously record brain activity and physical symptoms, such as jerking motions that occur during a seizure. You also receive care and support from dedicated EEG technicians, registered nurses and our epilepsy physician assistant.
To get the best results, we may need to monitor you for several days. But you don’t have to go it alone. Our rooms are large enough for a family member or loved one to stay with you.
You may need inpatient monitoring to:
- Confirm a diagnosis: If outpatient testing is not enough to confirm a diagnosis, inpatient monitoring provides the information we need to determine whether the symptoms you're experiencing are due to epilepsy. We may also use inpatient testing if we believe you have epilepsy and need to determine the type of epilepsy you have to inform your personalized treatment plan.
- Plan the next steps in your care: When medications are not enough to control epileptic seizures, monitoring helps us know more about the area of the brain affected by your seizures. We use this information to determine whether a change in medications or surgery is right for you.