Christiana Care opens first epilepsy monitoring unit in Delaware

John R. Pollard, M.D.

To increase access to advanced neurological care, Christiana Care Health System has opened the first Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) in Delaware.

Christiana Care’s EMU is part of a larger effort to establish an Epilepsy Center of Excellence, under the guidelines of the National Association of Epilepsy Centers, so adults of any age can receive the highest quality routine and specialty care for seizure disorders.

“We want to help patients who believe they have been over-diagnosed or under-diagnosed so they can see improvement in their lives,” said neurologist John R. Pollard, M.D., medical director of the new EMU.

While most patients with epilepsy are successfully treated by a general neurologist or epileptologist, a significant number of patients have persistent fainting or seizure episodes — or they have unwanted side effects from medications.

“Typically, these patients visit an EMU where they may stay for several days so they can be safely taken off medications, inducing seizures that are recorded and studied so a proper diagnosis and treatment can be planned,” said Christy L. Poole,  BSN, RN, CRNI CCRC, a Neurosciences program manager.

Specially outfitted private hospital rooms in the Transition Neuro Unit at Christiana Hospital provide state-of-the-art equipment for video and audio monitoring. In the rooms, brain waves are tracked with electroencephalography (EEG) and electrical activity in the heart is recorded with electrocardiography (EKG), helping clinicians understand what is happening during a seizure.

“Our staff works with patients and families to reduce any fear by providing information on what to expect, emphasizing procedures that enhance patient safety and making the stay as pleasant as possible,” said Susan Craig, MSN, RNIII-BC, epilepsy clinical nurse practice coordinator.

Chalita C. Atallah, M.D., left, Huijun Wang, M.D., Ph.D., right, and Ryan Griffin, RN, welcome a patient to the new Epilepsy Monitoring Unit on 2B at Christiana Hospital.

To further enhance safety, nurses assist patients whenever they are out of their bed. And patients wear mobility vests that connect to a stationary lift, a system that allows patients to move around a room and prevents them from falling if they have a seizure.

“This is one of the few EMUs in the U.S. that uses a patient lift to prevent falls,” Craig said.

Faye Tyson REEGT; Christy L. Poole BSN, BSN, Neurosciences program manager; Tracey Cuthbertson; Ryane Griffin, BSN, RN; Mary Rose Hancock REEG/EPT, RPSGT, CCSH; Huijun Wang M.D. Ph.D.; Carly Cline AAS REEGT; Susan Craig MSN RNIII-BC Epilepsy Clinical Practice Coordinator; Chalita C. Atallah M.D.; and Donna Mower-Wade DNP, ACNS-BC, CNRN.

Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, leading to seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations or loss of awareness. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there are 3.4 million Americans with epilepsy and there is a growing incidence of the disease among the adult population in Delaware, especially among people 60 and older.

“Our community deserves the very best in neurological care,” said Valerie Dechant, M.D., physician leader, Neuroscience Service Line, and medical director, Neurocritical Care and Acute Neurologic Services. “Our new Epilepsy Monitoring Unit will enable us to serve the complex neurologic needs of our adult patients.”