Epilepsy sufferers who are not responding to treatment can now be referred for a detailed brain scan at the world's first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) unit specifically for people with epilepsy. The unit, based at the National Society for Epilepsy's headquarters in Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, will accept referrals from all over the UK, free to patients and health authorities.

Professor Simon Shorvon, medical director of the society, says: "The scan provided by the unit is of such high quality that all sorts of unexpected things may show up on it, indicating a change is needed in treatment. We will be able to provide sufferers with more knowledge of their condition and identify those who could benefit from surgery."

Magnetic resonance imaging is the most important advance in the investigation of epilepsy since the introduction of the EEG in the 1930s. Using a massive electromagnet, which stimulates the brain tissues to emit radio signals, it can reveal details of brain structure as fine as one millimetre. But at present, availability of MRI scanning for epilepsy is patchy.

The new unit will be able to identify small scars on the brain which have not been seen previously and which may be triggering seizures, says Professor Shorvon. "These lesions can often be removed by surgery, which unlike drug treatment can cure epilepsy."

The MRI Unit has been funded by a charitable appeal, which raised more than pounds 2m.


'A Family Health Guide: Epilepsy', recently published by Ward Lock at pounds 6.99, is written in an accessible style and covers different types of seizures, treatment, self-help measures and how to live with the condition. For further details about the book or the new brain scan unit, contact the National Society for Epilepsy on 01494 873991.