Treatment Options

Current treatment plans for patients suffering from epilepsy are primarily FDA-approved medications, investigational drugs, surgery and the vagus nerve stimulator (VNS). Although there is no cure for epilepsy, patients benefits greatly from early diagnosis and a carefully selected treatment plan.


Anti-epilepsy drugs (AEDs) are the first step in treating seizures. At UCSF Epilepsy, our physicians are well-informed of all the current FDA approved medications. Our epilepsy team includes a pharmacologist who specializes in AEDs. Our patients are thoroughly assessed and evaluated to determine the most effective medication treatments depending on the types of seizures. This assessment includes a comprehensive medical history and lifestyle assessment.


Surgery is an option for patients who do not respond well to anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). UCSF offers different surgical approaches for various types of epilepsy. Several types of surgeries to treat epilepsy include focal resective surgery, hemispherectomy, and corpus callosotomy. Your physician will discuss which surgical options are appropriate for you, and will guide you through the presurgical process.

Our Epilepsy team collaborates closely with our well-known neurosurgeons to develop the best surgical interventions. Throughout this surgical process, the patient is closely followed and monitored, which includes consistent follow-up after surgery.

Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS)

This device is indicated for use as an adjunctive therapy to assist in reducing the frequency of seizures in adults and children over 12 years old. This is offered to patients who are not responsive to medications or do not qualify for surgery. The vagus nerve stimulator sends regular electrical pulses through the vagus nerve to the brain in order to potentially reduce the onset or frequency of seizures.

A device is implanted in the patient's chest with wires attached to the vagus nerve, located on the left side of the neck. This implant requires an overnight stay in the hospital. Two weeks after implant, the patient is seen in the outpatient clinic to have the stimulator programmed and is followed frequently for adjust the setting for optimal effect.