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New MRI machine locates faulty area that causes seizures in epilepsy patients

HOUSTON – Ravi Stewart, 19, has had epilepsy for most of his life. In high school, he had up to 80 seizures every day.

“Having people know about it, I was definitely bullied for most of it," Stewart said. "It definitely made it hard to go to school and stay caught up."

He took four different medicines, but none controlled his seizures. And he wasn’t a candidate for surgery because doctors couldn’t locate the problem spot in his brain.

“No matter how hard everyone tried, the seizures continued relentlessly,” Cleveland Clinic epilepsy specialist Dr. Elaine Wyllie said.

Stewart enrolled in a research protocol at the Cleveland Clinic. Doctors used a brand-new magnetic resonance imaging machine, the 7 Tesla, to look inside his brain. The machine allowed them to see a deeper level inside the cells.

With the device, doctors located the faulty area that was causing Stewart's seizures.

“The abnormality became clear,” Wyllie said.

Stewart then had surgery to remove the lesion. Surgeons precisely targeted the area in his brain without harming nearby regions that control language.

A year later, Stewart is completely seizure-free.

“It’s a whole new life. It’s a whole new person. I didn’t know this person existed behind the Ravi that we knew,” Sangeeta Lakhani, Stewart's mother, said.

“Things are definitely better. I definitely feel happier,” Stewart said.

He said he now has the life he always wanted, without seizures.

There are only a handful of 7 Tesla MRI machines in the world. Cleveland Clinic researchers are currently investigating how the scanner can be used to improve treatment for epilepsy.

Preliminary results show 7 Tesla images enhance previous findings in nearly half of epilepsy patients imaged.