LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The world’s first recipient of an implant designed to prevent seizures hailed the surgeons at Keck Medicine of USC Thursday.

Kathleen Rivas, 28, of Lakewood, an aspiring journalist, began treatment for her epilepsy at USC’s student health center in 2009 while earning her master’s degree. Rivas agreed to undergo the surgery because medication failed to control her seizures.

USC medical officials called the implant, which was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of epilepsy, a potential “game-changer” for millions of patients.

The device, which detects and responds to abnormal brain activity to prevent seizures before they occur, was implanted during a three-hour surgery Wednesday.

“I’m just so lucky to be here at USC,” Rivas said. “Without faith and trust in my neurologist and neurosurgeon, I don’t know where I’d be. My life is in their hands.”

According to the university, USC doctors have been studying the responsive neurostimulation system since 2006 and are among the first authorized to prescribe its use, since the FDA approved it Nov. 14.

“This has the potential to be a game-changer in the care of patients with epilepsy,” neurologist Dr. Christianne Heck said. “Every individual’s epilepsy is different. Unlike other neurostimulators on the market, this system looks for just the right circumstances to stop a person’s seizure from happening.”

About 3 million people in the United States have epilepsy, and about 65 million people worldwide, according to USC.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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