Epilepsy treatment in Pakistan

First-ever implantation of a brain pacemaker to treat epilepsy done in Pakistan

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To treat chronic epilepsy, a brain pacemaker is implanted in two female patients for the first time in Pakistan successfully.

Dr. Asif Bashir performed both surgeries on Thursday. He is the Professor & Head Neurosurgery Unit PGMI/Ameer-ud-Din Medical College and PINS. Also, the owner of Bashir NeuroSpine Institute (BNI). Dr. Asif Bashir is also associated with JFK Neurosciences Institute, New Jersey, USA.

Both the female patients were in good health and released from the hospital after 3 to 4 hours of the surgeries.

The patient Maryum is seven years old and belonged to Peshawar while the other patient 18 years old Aneesha Naresh is from Karachi. Both the patients were suffering from chronic epilepsy, which is called drug-resistant epilepsy or refractory epilepsy.

How does this work?

Dr. Asif Bashir while talking with the media said that Vagus Nerve Stimulation prevents seizures by sending regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve. He said in this type of surgery, a stimulator which may be called the pacemaker for the brain was implanted under the skin in the chest of the patient while a wire from the device is wound around the vagus nerve in the neck. Bashir said the entire procedure took around one to one and a half hours and after 3 to 4 hours of the surgery, the patient can go home walking.

Bashir informs that this treatment is widely popular across the globe but did not gain enough popularity in Pakistan. VNS treatment reduces the ratio of seizers in patients up to 50 percent or will end completely.

Further giving details of the treatment, Dr. Asif Bashir said Vagus Nerve stimulation (VNS) is a type of neuromodulation. The design of the treatment is to change how brain cells work by giving electrical stimulation to certain areas involved in seizures.

Cost of VNS Surgery

Talking about the cost of each VNS surgery, Dr. Asif said that it cost around Rs 2.5 million, which is the cheapest in the world. Similarly, they can replace the batteries of the devices after 5 to 6 years. Even if someone wants rechargeable batteries, the cost went up to over Rs 4.5 million/surgery.

“The real reason behind the high cost of this treatment is the cost of the stimulator and its other components”.

He said and requested the government to end duties and taxes on the import of medical equipment to bring down the cost of treatment.

However, he along with some other doctors has established a charity organization. He appealed to the philanthropists and donors to help the organization for the treatment of poor patients.

Moreover, Dr. Asif Bashir told his father Dr. Bashir Ahmed (late) established BNI in 1964 by saying

“We have the most advanced radiology services including world-renowned American boarded medical consultants”.

Epilepsy-Causes and Symptoms

Epilepsy is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness. Epilepsy affects both males and females. Seizure signs and symptoms may include:

  • Temporary confusion
  • A staring spell
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness
  • Psychic symptoms such as fear, anxiety, or deja vu

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