Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge adds epilepsy monitoring unit

Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge has opened a six-room Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, and administrators say it’s the first unit of its kind in the Advocate hospital group in the state.

According to Dr. Stacia Rouse, M.D. an epileptologist and medical director of epilepsy for Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, epileptic patients who visit the unit will typically stay between two to five days while extensive medical tests are conducted on their brains. She said patients will be in a private setting with an en suite bathroom, a bed, and a couch and are encouraged to have visitors check in on them during visiting hours.

“The goal for this unit, and epilepsy treatment in general, is to be seizure-free with the least possible side effects from medications,” said Rouse. “And this is really a way that we can get people there who are struggling to get there,” she said.

One in 26 people in the U.S. will have epilepsy at some point in their lives, according to Rouse. She said children under 10 and people over 55 are more susceptible to epilepsy, for the latter due to aging and other factors like Alzheimer’s and brain injuries. She said that given the aging population of not just people in Park Ridge but in the Chicago region, “I think we are going to see more and more people with epilepsy in our area.”

Patients in the epilepsy monitoring unit will have a continuous electroencephalogram (EEG) test for the length of their stay, which will give hospital staff a recording of brain wave activity. The test involves 10 to 20 electrodes, placed on a patient’s scalp with a paste and then wrapped with a bandage to hold them in place. Rouse said the wires (connecting to a computer) are 75 feet long to allow patients to move relatively freely in the room. Rouse said she recommends patients bring comfortable clothes, as well as books and tablets. If a patient has special needs, they can have a relative stay overnight with them, she said.

“We’re measuring electrical activity in the brain,” said Minna Masor, manager of neurosciences for Advocate Health Care’s Central Chicagoland Area, which includes Lutheran General and two other hospitals.

“We all have electricity inside of us, and we just want to make sure that, you know, if it goes haywire, we’re capturing where it’s going haywire from and then how to fix that.”

Rouse said the unit is meant to help epileptics who have a hard time controlling their epilepsy, and can also be used in cases where doctors are unsure if a patient truly has epilepsy.

The monitoring unit will have three rotating epileptologists, who are neurologists with specialties in epilepsy, as well as 14 EEG technicians, remote EEG technicians from Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, and multiple nurses who are observing patients both in the monitoring unit and general neurology ward.

The rooms are not going to be solely used to monitor epilepsy, Rouse said, and will also be used to for patients that need a continuous EEG which will be able to measure a patient’s consciousness and to look for unexpected seizures. She said when those the rooms are not in use they will also be used as general neurology beds.