Medical milestone as Uganda launches start of epilepsy surgeries

Medical milestone as Uganda launches start of epilepsy surgeries
Dr. Angelina Kakooza

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | In commemoration of World Epilepsy Day, Uganda has  launched the start of epilepsy surgeries to be conducted by local doctors.

Makerere University School of Public Health reports that approximately 1 to 2 percent of Uganda’s population grapples with epilepsy, with the Eastern, Central, and Western regions being the most affected, while the Northern Region records the least cases.

Dr. Angelina Kakooza, a child neurologist and associate professor of pediatrics, reveals that Ugandan medical professionals have developed the expertise to perform epilepsy surgeries, initially introduced at Cure Hospital-Mbale by American doctors. The surgical process involves removing the specific brain area triggering seizures.

Dr. Kakooza emphasizes the importance of patient evaluations before surgery is considered, noting that while surgery may not be suitable for everyone, it proves most effective when seizures consistently originate from a single brain location. In cases where at least two anti-seizure medications fail, surgery may be a viable option.

Dr. Juliet Nakku, the Executive Director of Butabika National Referral Hospital, highlights the reluctance of many epilepsy sufferers to seek medical treatment due to prevailing myths and misconceptions. Dr. Nakku stresses the need for heightened awareness about epilepsy, aiming to dispel misconceptions and ensure that health professionals and communities recognize it as a treatable medical condition.

“Epilepsy is not because someone has been bewitched that requires concoctions from the soil, but we have medicine in our health facilities to treat the disease right from health centre III up to referral hospitals,” Dr. Nakku stated.

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She further explained that with the initiation of epilepsy surgery in Uganda, neurosurgeons will conduct tests to pinpoint areas in the brain causing abnormal wave activity, removing them to eliminate seizures for those who undergo the surgery. Emphasizing that the country has trained experts in this specialized field, she highlighted the capability to provide this crucial service.

Collaborating with various institutions, Dr. Richard Idro, an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health at Makerere University, shared the ongoing efforts to manufacture and train individuals within Uganda. This initiative aims to strengthen the service’s capacity once fully operational.

Notably, International Epilepsy Day is observed annually on the second Monday of February, dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy, its treatment options, and the necessary steps to ensure access to treatment for all individuals in need.