Summer 2007

Pediatric Neurologist Joins Growing Epilepsy Program

UCSF is bringing aboard an accomplished pediatric epileptologist, Joseph Sullivan, M.D., from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The addition of Sullivan, plus the recent addition of epileptologists Tina Shih, M.D., and John Hixson, M.D., doubles the number of faculty involved in the clinical care of epilepsy and makes UCSF's epilepsy program the largest in Northern California, says UCSF neurologist Daniel Lowenstein, M.D.

Sullivan has been a pediatric neurologist and researcher at CHOP for two years, evaluating and treating children with epilepsy. He is considered an expert in evaluating and treating refractory pediatric epilepsy, Lowenstein says.

Sullivan has been a principal investigator at the hospital on a study aimed at validating functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for language localization in children with epilepsy. The research is being carried out by a consortium of 13 research centers. Sullivan hopes to bring that research to San Francisco and to add UCSF to the consortium. In doing so, he would be building on a strong history of developmental brain imaging at UCSF.

Sullivan has always been intrigued by the developmental aspects of pediatric neurology, but became specifically interested in the effects of seizures on the developing brain. Children can be especially vulnerable to damage from epileptic seizures because their brains are still developing rapidly, Sullivan says.

"We want to try and stop seizures and maximize the child's developmental potential, while at the same time being wary of the potential cognitive morbidities that can result from taking anti-epileptic medications," Sullivan says.

The fact that the children's brains are still developing can also be a boon, he points out, in that their recovery after surgery can be more rapid and complete. "Young children can recover from a complete hemispherectomy, which would obviously be devastating for an adult," Sullivan says.

UCSF's comprehensive, level IV epilepsy program brings together many resources that are not available to community physicians. "We are able to provide extensive monitoring, as well as the kind of testing by a broad range of ancillary pediatric specialists, all of which is done in a child-centered hospital setting," Lowenstein says. "This is the kind of epilepsy service that can't be duplicated in community hospitals."

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