Comprehensive Epilepsy Center Earns Highest Accreditation Level

By ChaseYavondaC

The Level 4 accreditation means that UAMS is capable of performing the most complex surgeries for the treatment of epilepsy. The accreditation is valid through December 2019. The nearest adult Level 4 epilepsy programs are in Jackson, Mississippi, and Dallas.

UAMS has hired fellowship-trained neurosurgeon Viktoras Palys, M.D., who is capable of performing complex epilepsy surgeries including placing temporary recording electrodes on the surface of the brain or implanting them within the brain tissue. These procedures assist in planning the surgical approach for particular patients.

The center offers a broad range of surgical procedures for epilepsy. In addition to the spectrum of brain surgeries it offers MRI-guided laser ablation for the diseased brain tissue along with placement of responsive brain stimulation (RNS, Neuropace) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) devices. For the minimally invasive diagnostic and/or treatment procedures, the robotic stereotactic assistance (ROSA) is available to supplement the traditional surgical navigation tools.

Palys joins epileptologists Bashir Sami Shihabuddin, M.D., and Ikram Khan, M.D., as well as a multidisciplinary team dedicated to the treatment of epilepsy, including neuroradiologists, neuropsychologists, pharmacists and social workers.

Shihabuddin, medical director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center and a professor in the Department of Neurology in the UAMS College of Medicine, said in addition to highlighting programs with advanced surgical capabilities, the Level 4 designation signals a dedication to a team approach and comprehensive care.

“Many patients with epilepsy will not need these advanced surgeries, but they benefit from being treated at a comprehensive epilepsy center, where we can offer patients the whole scope of treatments available, backed up by the technology and expertise necessary,” Shihabuddin said.

Epilepsy can be difficult to diagnose and complex to manage. Shihabuddin said about 30 percent of patients referred to the center for treatment actually turn out to be non- epileptic. For many others, accurate diagnosis of a specific epilepsy syndrome might lead to changes to anti-seizure medications that can result in vast improvements.

The center can provide minimally invasive procedures for the treatment of epilepsy such as implanting stimulation devices such as responsive neurostimulators or vagus nerve stimulators. The center also offers Video-EEG monitoring technology, neuropsychological assessment, MRI scans, PET scans and Ictal SPECT scans that are tailored specifically for epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a common and serious neurological condition that is characterized by repeated unprovoked seizures. Seizures are caused by abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain. They cause spells of altered behavior, consciousness, emotions or sensations. They might be mild with brief experiences like changes in vision, unusual tastes or smells, tingling or a sense of déjà vu. They can also be severe, such as convulsive seizures with violent muscle stiffening and contractions.

There are several types of epileptic seizures and epilepsy disorders. Epilepsy can result from multiple causes such as head trauma, abnormalities in brain structure and genetic predisposition. But in many cases the cause of seizures remains unknown.

Early treatment is key. The National Association of Epilepsy Centers recommends that patients whose seizures are not under control after three months of treatment by a primary care physician should seek treatment from a neurologist. Patients who have been seeing a general neurologist and are still experiencing seizures after 12 months should request a referral to an epilepsy center with an epileptologist.

Palys received his medical degree from Kaunas Medical University in Lithuania, followed by general surgery residency training at Lithuanian University of Health Sciences in Kaunas. He completed his general surgery internship at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Metropolitan Group Hospitals, and neurosurgery residency training at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He also obtained additional functional and stereotactic neurosurgery training at a Virginia Commonwealth University fellowship directed by Kathryn L. Holloway, M.D.

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and eight institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute, Institute for Digital Health & Innovation and the Institute for Community Health Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.