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2011 Health Care Heroes: Vicenta Salanova

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Health Care HeroesFINALIST: Advancements in Health Care

Vicenta Salanova, MD, FAAN

Professor of Neurology, Indiana University School of Medicine; Director Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, Indiana University Hospital

 

salanova-vicenta (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Epilepsy, a disorder that causes incapacitating seizures, affects three million Americans. Sixty percent of them respond to medication. “Those are the lucky ones,” said Vicenta Salanova, M.D., director of the Indiana University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.

For the remaining 40 percent, the disease imposes limitations that severely impact the quality of their lives. They aren’t allowed to drive or swim and may not be able to work. They are prone to accidents, such as falling or drowning. They typically have significant psycho-social problems, and 30 percent experience depression. They are also at risk for SUDEP—sudden unexplained death in epilepsy.

Some patients in this group, the ones for which only one area of the brain contributes to the seizures, are candidates for surgery. For the rest, clinical trials represent their only hope.

These are the patients that come to Salanova, 66, the principal investigator for epilepsy clinical trials at IU Health’s University Hospital. A native of Spain, Salanova came to the U.S. in 1972 for her neurology training and joined the staff at IU in 1991.

Under Salanova’s leadership the center, the only Level 4 epilepsy center in Indiana, participated in the multi-center SANTE Clinical Trial, which showed that electrical stimulation of the thalamus gland was effective. It is awaiting FDA approval.

The groundbreaking NeuroPace RNS System Clinical Trial was also found to reduce the frequency of seizures and has been submitted for FDA approval. A recording device implanted in the patient’s scalp detects the onset of a seizure and sends a mild electrical stimulation to suppress it. The treatment is significant because it can be used in patients with multiple areas of the brain involved in the seizures.

“This is the first time this has ever been done,” Salanova said. “I can see the seizures and the electrical activity of the brain and program the stimulator specifically for the patient so he can suppress the beginning of the seizure before it spreads to the rest of the brain—before he feels anything. We are really excited about both these trials.”

The center is gearing up for participation in the international ROSE trial, which will compare standard open-skull surgery to the less-invasive Gamma Knife radiosurgery, an outpatient procedure. The center conducted the pilot study for this trial years ago.

“We hope that we can show that radiosurgery is another option, Salanova said. “We will follow patients for several years to see not only if radiosurgery is efficacious, but how it affects verbal memory over time and the psycho-social aspects.”

Salanova won’t stop until those questions are answered. In the end, it all comes back to the patients. “We do this research so we can help more patients and improve their quality of life” she said.

“Dr. Salanova has many heroic qualities, but among them I would specifically mention that she is hands-down the most dedicated physician I know,” said Robert Worth, M.D., a neurosurgeon who works closely with Dr. Salanova. “For example, during the recent ice storm she stayed several nights in a downtown hotel so that she would not take a chance on being unable to attend to a patient who was in the hospital for a critical monitoring procedure.”•

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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