PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Christina Maust started having seizures in 2012.

“I just fell, and everything was just kinda like spinning,” she describes.

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She would lose awareness then.

“And then my whole body starts moving. They’re called bicycle movements,” she continues.

The episodes became more frequent. Several times a day this would happen, making her afraid to go out.

Even taking three different types of seizure medicine together didn’t help.

“About one third of people with epilepsy are really not well-controlled with medication,” says neurologist Dr. James Valeriano, a seizure specialist at Allegheny General Hospital.

A seizure happens when brain cells fire when you don’t want them to. This can involve a small group of cells, or the whole brain.

“If a certain part of the brain discharges, then the symptoms of the seizure will depend on where the discharge is. So if the part of the brain that controls your right arm discharges, your right arm will jerk,” says Dr. Valeriano.

Several new medicines have become available in the last ten to 15 years. While they come with fewer side effects, they really haven’t boosted seizure control. So surgical treatments have been developed, including the operation Christina had.

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She wanted a therapy that she didn’t have to remember to take. Her neurologist told her about an up and coming procedure.

“She just told me about the device being put into my head and that it would just jolt me before the seizure would happen. That it would know before I would know. I was like, that is sweet. I want it,” says Christina.

Jolt is a bit of an overstatement. The patient doesn’t feel anything. Sensor electrodes placed in the brain detect seizure activity–stimulating electrodes then producing a programmed counter discharge.

To have the device implanted, a patient’s brainwaves are monitored in the hospital to figure out where in the brain the seizures are coming from. Then the patient comes back for the three-hour surgery several weeks later.

Complications include infection in two percent, and erosion of the scalp above the device. Part of the skull bone is removed to make room.

“It is presently covered by insurance, but that still doesn’t cover the whole cost of doing this type of thing,” says Dr. James Wilberger, a neurosurgeon at Allegheny General Hospital. “We need to be able to offer the full range of treatments to our epilepsy patients.”

Brainwave activity recorded by the device is downloaded into a computer so the doctors can program it to fight the seizures.

About half the people who get this have a 50 percent reduction in seizures.

“It seems the longer the devices are in, they seem to work better. They sort of re-regulate these cells that don’t work normally. They may actually teach them over time, or supress their ability to discharge and cause seizures over time,” says Dr. Valeriano.

Christina is the first patient to have this done at Allegheny General Hospital.

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“All the thoughts that were going through my head was, my life’s gonna change and everything is gonna get better,” she says.