ALBANY, N.Y., December 15, 2006 — Albany Medical Center’s adult Comprehensive Epilepsy Program has been granted membership into the prestigious National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC), becoming one of just six such programs in the state to be so recognized, and one of only three upstate.
The program also received a Level 4 designation by the NAEC, the highest it offers.
“This Level 4 designation is shared by the best academic centers in the country,” said Anthony Ritaccio, M.D., director of the program and the J. Spencer Standish Endowed Chair in Neuroscience at Albany Med. “It has been very gratifying to see an intense effort on the part of so many people in the Medical Center to help us earn this distinction.”
A Level 4 rating from the NAEC indicates a center offers the most advanced medical and surgical diagnostic and treatment options for epilepsy. Albany Med’s adult Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, begun in 2001, offers a complete range of therapeutic options including advanced drug therapies as well as contemporary surgical procedures for curing this often-devastating condition.
Since 1998, Albany Med physicians have also been using a technique know as vagus nerve stimulation, which consists of implanting a small battery-operated device that electrically blocks seizures.
In 2003, Albany Med opened up a comprehensive epilepsy-monitoring unit. There, with six dedicated beds, epilepsy patients receive care from specially trained nurses, neuropsychologists, and physicians. Using advanced computer systems and seizure recording equipment the staff can pinpoint the area of the brain where seizures begin. Brain mapping techniques are then used to locate areas of the brain important for language, memory and movement to safely guide surgical tissue removal in order to stop the seizures.
Earlier this year, a nationally known epilepsy specialist, Michael Gruenthal, M.D., Ph.D., joined the Medical Center as chair of the department of neurology and co-director of the Neurosciences Institute. “I have been very impressed with the hard work and dedication of the staff here who take care of our patients with epilepsy. The program certainly is a valuable resource for the Capital Region community,” he said.
Epilepsy is the term given to a wide range of conditions characterized by disturbed electrical rhythms of the central nervous system. The brain, just like the heart, is an electrical organ. As such, any number of things can go wrong with the brain’s electrical circuitry, resulting in seizures. When a person has more than one seizure without a clear reversible cause (such as a high fever or low blood sugar) they are said to have epilepsy.
The National Association of Epilepsy Centers, founded in 1988 and headquartered in Minneapolis, establishes guidelines for services, personnel, and facilities that should be available at a specialized epilepsy center in an effort to provide consumers, government and other agencies with criteria to evaluate the quality of epilepsy programs. It then grants membership to qualifying programs. Besides Albany Med, about 60 comprehensive epilepsy programs are members of the organization, including those at Stanford University, NYU Medical Center, Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Duke University, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The two other members in upstate New York are in Rochester and Syracuse.
Albany Medical Center is northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center. It consists of Albany Medical College, Albany Medical Center Hospital and the Albany Medical Center Foundation, Inc. Additional information about Albany Medical Center can be found at .