Vanderbilt Neurosciences / Services / Epilepsy Program

Epilepsy Program

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes repeated, unprovoked seizures. At the Vanderbilt Epilepsy Center, we evaluate and care for adult and pediatric patients with mild seizures to more complex epilepsy disorders, including medication-resistant epilepsy.

While medication helps some patients control their seizures completely, those with medication-resistant epilepsy often benefit from advanced treatment. Our epilepsy specialists are nationally recognized in epilepsy monitoring and advanced surgical procedures, including resection, MRI-guided laser ablation and neurostimulation. Together, we’ll help you choose the right treatment to control your seizures and improve your quality of life.

Epilepsy Care: Why Choose Vanderbilt

At Vanderbilt, we offer:

  • Unmatched expertise: Vanderbilt is recognized by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers as the only Level 4 Epilepsy Center for adults in Tennessee. We are one of only two Level 4 Epilepsy Centers for children in the state. Vanderbilt also has the largest Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) in Tennessee with 8 adult and 4 pediatric monitoring beds.
  • Top specialists: Our team of epileptologists, neurosurgeons and neuropsychologists provide the highest level of care to patients with complex epilepsy. Our surgeons have extensive training and experience in performing surgical treatments for epilepsy. 
  • Team approach: At Vanderbilt, our clinical neurosciences experts collaborate to develop a personalized treatment plan for you. As a patient, you will benefit from the expertise of many different specialists working to get you the best possible outcome. 
  • Support staff: We have a program coordinator who can help you navigate the surgical process, from scheduling pre-surgical tests to obtaining your medical records or insurance authorizations. Our program coordinator can also answer any questions, address any concerns and assist you with lodging or finding epilepsy resources. 

Epilepsy: Monitoring

In the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU), we use both video and electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor and record the electrical activity of your brain and seizures in a safe and controlled setting. These tests help us accurately diagnose epilepsy and develop a personalized treatment plan that is right for you.

Epilepsy: Pre-Surgical Evaluation

Our epilepsy specialists will review your medical history and do a physical exam to help determine what surgery treatment option will be most effective for you. Our staff will also conduct thorough monitoring and testing, which may include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)/video monitoring
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging
  • Neuropsychological testing
  • Ictal single photon emissions computer tomography (SPECT)
  • Wada test
  • Functional MRI testing
  • Stereotactic EEG (SEEG) monitoring
  • Subdural grid intracranial monitoring

Epilepsy: Treatments We Offer

At Vanderbilt, we offer the full range of treatments for epilepsy, including:

  • Medication: We may be able to reduce or prevent your symptoms with anti-seizure medications. We prescribe medication based on your type of seizure, frequency of seizures and other contributing factors.
  • Dietary therapies: The ketogenic diet, a modified Atkins meal plan or other low-glycemic index diets are sometimes used as a treatment to reduce seizures. These diets are low in carbohydrates. Our doctors and dietitians will help you start the diet, but it must be strictly followed at home. 
  • Surgery: For patients with medication-resistant epilepsy, surgical treatment may provide the best chance for seizure control and improved quality of life. Surgical treatment options include:
    • Surgical resection: Using advanced techniques, our surgeons may be able to remove the area of the brain causing the seizures. 
    • MRI-guided laser ablation: In this minimally-invasive procedure, our neurosurgeons use real-time magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guidance and laser energy to destroy abnormal brain tissue that can cause seizures.
    • Responsive neurostimulation (RNS): Our surgeons will implant a neurostimulator, similar to a pacemaker, under the scalp and within the skull. The leads (wires) are then placed in one or two areas of the brain. When the device detects abnormal patterns, it delivers pulses of electrical stimulation to normalize the brain activity before a seizure occurs.
    • Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS): With vagus nerve stimulation, a device is surgically placed under the skin in the chest. The device connects to a nerve in the neck called the vagus nerve. The device sends electrical impulses through the vagus nerve to the brain, which can reduce seizures. 
    • Deep brain stimulation (DBS): In this procedure, the surgeons will implant two electrodes into a region of the brain called the thalamus, and a neurostimulator will be placed under the skin in the chest like a pacemaker. The device sends electrical impulses to the brain which over time will reduce the excitability of the brain and can reduce the frequency of seizures.
  • Clinical trials: At Vanderbilt, you have access to clinical trials that offer promising new epilepsy treatments before they are widely available. 

Epilepsy: Locations

Vanderbilt Epilepsy Center
2220 Pierce Avenue, Suite B-1053
Nashville, TN 37232

Adult Neurologists/Epileptologists

Pediatric Neurologists/Epileptologists

Adult Neurosurgeons


Epilepsy Nurse Practitioner

Epilepsy: For Referring Physicians

To refer patients to the Vanderbilt Epilepsy Center, please fax demographics, clinic notes and insurance information to the attention of our surgery program coordinator.

Epilepsy Surgery Program Coordinator
Candy Gafford
Phone: (615) 322-5509
Fax: (615) 343-2250

To refer patients for diagnostic or presurgical monitoring in our EMU, contact our team at (615) 343-1407.

Epilepsy: Related Programs and Services