Clinical-grade wearables could put control back in the hands of epilepsy patients
Epilepsy is a neurological condition causing recurring seizures that are nearly impossible to predict. In addition, the frequency and occurrence is often underreported because patients are not always aware of their seizures. Developing a deep, personalized understanding of each case is the key to effective treatment, but available personal seizure detection technologies are nonspecific, invasive and unwieldy. Overcoming these challenges will require intense collaboration between ‘med’ and ‘tech’.
Strategies for dealing with an unpredictable condition
While medication is effective at controlling seizure activity in about 70% of epilepsy patients, the remaining 30% may suffer from debilitating seizures that severely affect their quality of life. As seizures can cause involuntary movements and loss of consciousness, experiencing one while performing a potentially dangerous activity, like driving, could have disastrous consequences.
Seizure detection through the measurement of electrical activity in the brain and other physiologic markers, such as heart and respiration rates, can give important insights into the types of seizures that a patient experiences and how they are triggered, leading in turn to customized treatment strategies.
Shortcomings of the current state-of-the-art
Personal devices currently available to epilepsy patients are often not specific or sensitive enough to provide useful information about the frequency and duration of seizure activity. Adding difficult-to-capture measurements, such as electrical activity in the brain, in addition to other physiologic signals can vastly improve seizure detection, but current devices aren’t exactly discreet.
Paving the way for a marketable real-world solution
An accurate and unobtrusive wearable seizure detection solution is undoubtedly on the horizon, but it will need to clear several key hurdles before being labeled effective. To truly improve the day-to-day lives of epilepsy patients, a prototype must:
- Be clinically validated in a large number of patients;
- Have a small form factor and ergonomic design;
- Contain multiple relevant sensors that operate at low power;
- Incorporate multimodal signal processing algorithms that accurately detect seizures in a range of patients.
Getting there requires heavy investment in R&D both on the medical and technology fronts – but hope is just around the corner. Here at Byteflies, we’re hoping to cut out most of that complexity and make it as hassle-free as possible for companies to develop wearable seizure detection solutions that improve lives. To that end, we’re leveraging the expertise of the multidisciplinary SeizeIT consortium alongside UCB Pharma, KU Leuven and Pilipili, funded by imec.icon.