Telemedicine May Help In Treating Epileptic Seizures In Remote Locations, or Space, Wake Forest Researcher Says

May 13, 1998

WASHINGTON, D.C -- Treating people with epilepsy or seizures who are in remote locations such as space, underwater or extended airline flights may be possible through what is known as telemedicine, according to Dr. Cormac A. O'Donovan.

O'Donovan and others making presentations at an epilepsy symposium today at a meeting of the Space and Underwater Research Group of the World Federation of Neurology discussed the possible stresses that may provoke seizures during space travel, in underwater locations like submarines and on long plane flights.

Sleep deprivation, a common occurrence during travel that can upset the body's natural rhythms, may provoke seizures, according to O'Donovan, an assistant professor of neurology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. The meeting is being coordinated by the Stroke Research Center of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

In space, weightlessness may act as a catalyst as well. It is not known exactly how this works, O'Donovan said, but indications are that weightlessness may change brain-wave patterns and that could affect behavior. Using monitors for heart rates, breathing, brain waves, scientists have been able to gather a large amount of biological information on people during space travel, O'Donovan said.

Such monitoring can assist in the treatment of a person in a remote location by providing an attendant physician with the help he needs in prescribing the medication or the information needed to alter medication if it is not working. A doctor on land communicating with a third party might be able to instruct that person on how to examine the patient and, with the aid of video, how to treat the patient.

This method of using technology and interactive telecommunications to allow a health-care provider at one location to examine a patient at a remote location is called telemedicine.

The four-day meeting -- the Congress on Cerebral Ischemia, Vascular Dementia, Epilepsy and CNS Injury: New Aspects of Prevention and Treatment from Space and Underwater Exploration -- continues through Wednesday noon at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, formerly the Sheraton Washington.
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Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

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