CHUM neurosurgeon raises funds for epilepsy research

On January 8, 2010, CHUM neurosurgeon Dr. Alain Bouthillier will leave for Argentina, where he will brave the 6,962-metre heights (over 22,840 feet) of Mount Aconcagua. Dr. Bouthillier's climb is intended to raise public awareness about epilepsy and raise funds for further research on the illness.

Aconcagua, the "Colossus of the Americas," is the highest summit in the Andes mountain range and the highest in the world outside of Asia. The climb will take three weeks. But it has already taken months of advance preparation and rigorous training for Dr. Bouthillier, who is personally covering the costs of the expedition. His regime includes jogging, exercise wearing a 25-kilogram backpack and sessions under simulated high-altitude conditions. All this will help him acclimatize to the rugged environment he will face during the climb, when temperatures will fall to minus 25 degrees C and oxygen to 40% of its standard concentration at sea level.

Dr. Bouthillier is a member of the team that's dedicated to the treatment of epilepsy at the CHUM. With neurologist Dr. Dang Khoa Nguyen, he is one of the principal authors of a study published in the June 2009 edition of the Journal of Neurosurgery on treatment of refractory epilepsy (a form of the illness resistant to medication) through microsurgery of the insular region of the brain. This surgery had been discontinued since the 1950s because it was considered too dangerous, but it has recently been performed with success, using modern microsurgical techniques supported by better understanding of brain anatomy. One of the patients Dr. Bouthillier operated on was a young woman suffering from regular epileptic seizures. She had been forced to give up hope of becoming pregnant, due to the heavy medication she had to take. After her surgery, she was able to stop taking anticonvulsants. Since then, not only has she had no more seizures but she has recently given birth to her first child.

"We've made great progress in the treatment of epilepsy", says Dr. Bouthillier, "but there's still a lot more to be done. Through research we can discover new treatments and improve the quality of life for epilepsy patients."



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