Managing your epilepsy is a team effort with everyone working toward the same goal: your optimal health.

Three million Americans have epilepsy or seizure disorder – and 200,000 people are diagnosed every year. For most, working with a neurologist can help manage epilepsy with medication and regular checkups. But others may require advanced treatments such as surgery to get their seizures to stop.

And therein lies the problem. Once a patient is referred to an advanced care center, they continue to seek routine care at the advanced care facility instead of returning home to visit their community neurologist. But the team at Keck Medicine has found that this is not always beneficial to the patient.

A partnership with professionals

Doctors at the USC Comprehensive Epilepsy Center of Keck Medicine of USC have developed a partnership program to comanage care with regional and community neurologists in Bakersfield and Santa Barbara.

“A lot of patients come to us because they need a higher level of care, but then they keep coming back to us for their regular checkups when they should be seeing their doctor in the community who referred them,” said Christianne Heck, MD, professor of clinical neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and medical director of the USC Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.

A hometown relationship

If you have epilepsy, maintaining a relationship with your community neurologist can mean closer care and less travel time to a specialty center as well as having a personal relationship with your doctor. In effect, your doctor again becomes your first point of contact for regular, routine checkups.

Nurturing this relationship has an indirect benefit: It prevents overcrowding at specialty centers.

“When your seizures stop or are under control, you can return to your local neurologist for regular checkups,” Dr. Heck said.

If an issue arises that your community neurologist cannot resolve, they can refer you back to the USC Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. The Center is a Level 4 specialist center, the highest designation given by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers for hospitals treating complex cases of epilepsy.

Our doctors are among the most experienced in advanced procedures, such as surgery to remove sections of the brain that induce seizures or implanting devices to stop seizures. They have access to the latest technology, such as equipment and procedures that accurately pinpoint the source of the seizures. There also are opportunities for patients to participate in ongoing clinical trials.

Nutritionists and psychologists who specialize in working with epilepsy patients also are part of the multispecialty team. Patients can consult with them if their community doctor does not have these resources.

“This approach is a bit unique,” Dr. Heck said. “I think it is a model of how centers of excellence, not only in neurology, might better serve patients.”

The epileptologists at Keck Medicine of USC are pioneers in procedures that decrease the frequency of epileptic seizures. To learn more, visit one of the world-renowned specialists at the USC Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Keck Medicine of USC. If you are in the Los Angeles area, make an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visiting https://epilepsy.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.

By Heidi Tyline King