Dr. Edward Chang is a neurosurgeon with expertise in treating intractable epilepsy, facial pain, movement disorders and brain tumors in adults. He specializes in advanced brain mapping methods, including awake speech and motor mapping, to safely perform surgery in the brain. He also has extensive training in deep brain stimulation for movement disorders and implantable devices for neuromodulation. Here, we talk to Chang about his epilepsy surgery work.
Why did you decide to become a neurosurgeon?
The brain is the most fascinating organ in the human body. I thought becoming a neurosurgeon was a great way to help others in need, while also learning neuroscience. It was a really easy decision for me.
How can neurosurgery help improve the quality of life for patients with severe, or otherwise untreatable, epilepsy?
Many patients with uncontrolled seizures can benefit from surgery. In most cases, the seizures can be reduced a lot, or even cured. Nowadays, there are many different safe surgical treatments that can be tailored for individual patients. Our goal is to help patients get their lives back as much as possible.
When is the right time for someone to think about having epilepsy surgery?
If someone has tried two or more epilepsy medications, but still has seizures, then it is already time to think about surgical options. Epilepsy surgery can offer a major improvement in the quality-of-life, and also reduce the chance of serious injuries or death related to epilepsy.
Are there any exciting developments in epilepsy surgery?
Yes, lots. With advances in technology, there are now implantable devices like “brain pacemakers” under study that can predict when seizures will start, and also send small electrical pulses to stop them. Another really exciting clinical trial is Gamma Knife radiosurgery, which uses focused radiation to stop seizures. Patients can go home on the same day of treatment.
How might brain imaging research improve results for people who have epilepsy surgery?
Localizing where seizures start in the brain is the most important factor for the success of epilepsy surgery. Our brain imaging research is helping us to improve this localization so patients have the best chance of being seizure-free after surgery. UCSF is a leader in the discovery and advanced imaging of very difficult-to-find lesions causing epilepsy.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to spend time with my family, or go sailing in the San Francisco Bay.
If you weren't a neurosurgeon, what would you be?
Not sure, I really love my job and patients.
What's the best part about practicing at UCSF?
The people. I am lucky to work with the some of the most compassionate, smart, and hard-working people in medicine.
Interviewed by Kendra Mayfield