Children and young people living with severe epilepsy in Scotland will have access for the first time to a potentially life-changing laser treatment which could end their seizures.

The cutting-edge Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy (LITT) will be available on the NHS in Scotland for the first time thanks to a partnership between the Welch Trust, Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC) and NHS Lothian to bring it to the capital’s new children’s hospital.

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LITT is a minimally invasive treatment which uses laser to remove brain tissue that is causing seizures.

Paediatric patients can be referred if they are diagnosed with refractory epilepsy, meaning their condition is resistant to treatment. These children may experience up to 100 “drop down” seizures a day.

In some cases LITT can stop these altogether, effectively curing their epilepsy.

HeraldScotland: : Victoria Welch, Trustee of the Welch Trust (left) and Roslyn Neely, CEO of Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (right), at the RHCYP: Victoria Welch, Trustee of the Welch Trust (left) and Roslyn Neely, CEO of Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (right), at the RHCYP

The laser therapy is currently only available at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London and in Houston, Texas, but is scheduled to be installed at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP) in Edinburgh this summer.

The laser equipment will be part of the Scottish National Paediatric Epilepsy Surgery Service, meaning that children from all over Scotland can be sent to Edinburgh for the surgery.

It is expected to benefit up to six children a year, from infants to teenagers, and can also be used to treat adults.

The current surgery choice practised in Edinburgh is open brain surgery, which lasts around seven hours, has a longer recovery time, and results in a scar across the top of the child’s head.

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The LITT precision technology will reduce this surgery time to around two hours, is much less invasive and has a shorter recovery time.

It follows a request from the National Epilepsy Surgery Service to ECHC to support the initiative, with the charity subsequently striking a partnership with the Welch Trust.

Victoria Welch, trustee of the Welch Trust and a paediatric nurse, said: “When we were made aware of this need, we didn’t have to think too long about it.

“Our focus continues to be to invest in high-impact programmes that save lives or significantly improve the quality of life for very sick or terminally ill children.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity and expanding our support across other areas of critical care.”

Roslyn Neely, CEO of Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “With the new children’s hospital now open, we are thrilled to have partnered with the Welch Trust to bring the world-class LITT equipment to Scotland for the first time.

“It is always very satisfying for us to be able to join with another funder who has a similar desire to support the hospital with projects that will transform children’s health.

“Having the laser surgery available in Edinburgh gives families more choice in their place of care and means they will no longer need to endure the financial and emotional cost of national or international travel and separation at a very stressful time. It will also place Edinburgh and NHS Lothian on the map as a world-leading provider of epilepsy surgery and treatment.”

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The RHCYP fully opened in March, nearly two years after the project was delayed when inspectors discovered ventilation flaws during eleventh-hour checks. Remedial work has had to be carried out, which was slowed down further due to the pandemic.

Dr Edward Doyle, associate medical director at NHS Lothian for Women and Children’s Services, said it was delighted to be bringing LITT technology to Scotland.

He said: “We will be the first in Scotland and only the second location in the whole of the UK to offer LITT surgery.

“Severe epilepsy can be very difficult to live with and puts an enormous strain on families. Having a world-class, cutting-edge treatment option available here in Lothian, which is both less invasive and which reduces recovery time, will make a huge difference to lives of children and their families across Scotland.

“This treatment really does have the potential to transform lives.”