Jefferson University Hospitals

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I a candidate for RNS?

Determining a course of treatment is complex. It can only be done after a neurologist or neurosurgeon carefully evaluates your overall condition. RNS is generally for people who:

  • Are age 18 or older
  • Have tried and failed to respond to at least two different anti-epileptic medications
  • Have seizures that start in one or two parts of the brain but are not candidates for epilepsy surgery

Is RNS covered by insurance?

RNS is an FDA-approved treatment for refractory epilepsy and is covered by insurance.

Isn't surgery for epilepsy a drastic step?

This is something you should discuss with your neurologist or neurosurgeon. Like all surgeries, RNS implantation carries some risks.  However, it is also important to know that poorly controlled epilepsy is associated with negative sociological, psychological and medical outcomes and significant risks.  RNS has the potential to reduce the number of seizures in many people, and might reduce the risks caused by uncontrolled seizures.  Whenever considering surgery, we must consider the potential benefits and risks, and generally only offer surgery if the potential benefits outweigh the risks.

You, in conjunction with your loved ones and your physicians, are the only person that can decide what is right for you.

How do I get ready for the RNS procedure?

Your epilepsy doctors determine where to put the system’s leads, which are the wires that deliver the electrical pulses. To do that, we must determine your seizures begin in the brain.  If this has not already been done, you will be admitted to our 8-bed, state-of-the-art Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. When you have seizures in the EMU, they are carefully monitored and recorded. This allows us to determine where in your brain from which the seizures are coming.

What happens after surgery?

Patients typically return home after a few days in the hospital.  Once the RNS system is active, it delivers treatment automatically. The RNS System functions much like a cardiac pacemaker and constantly monitors brain activity. When it detects abnormal brain activity, it delivers an electrical pulse to either prevent a seizure from starting or stop it if already begun.   

When you are discharged, you will be given a small, remote-like laptop with a special wand. This is used to download a log of the RNS activity to share with your neurologist. It will be uploaded to a secure website for review by your neurologist, who will tell you how often you must provide monitoring information. 

Will I be seizure free?

RNS rarely stops seizures completely. Instead, it reduces the number of seizures that people experience and sometimes seizures may be less severe.

With RNS, patients still need to take anti-epileptic drugs. However, the dose may be lowered or medications may be switched for some.

Does the RNS system require ongoing maintenance?

The battery of the generator must be changed every three to five years. Changing the system's battery is done by your neurosurgeon during a short outpatient procedure.