Keck Medicine of USC has become the world’s first medical center to implant a responsive brain device newly approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat epilepsy. It has the potential to help millions of people worldwide.

The treatment involves surgical implantation of a device that detects and then directly responds to abnormal brain activity to prevent seizures before they occur. In a three-hour surgery Dec. 18, USC faculty physicians implanted the device in a 28-year-old Lakewood, Calif., woman who was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2004.

“I’m just so lucky to be here at USC,” said Kathleen Rivas, an aspiring journalist who sought care from the university’s student health center in 2009 while earning her master’s degree. “Without faith and trust in my neurologist and neurosurgeon, I don’t know where I’d be. My life is in their hands.”

Rivas elected to have the implant because medication had not fully controlled her seizures. Over the next few months, her doctors will program the device to detect brain activity that indicates a seizure’s onset.

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