WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Jan. 20, 2009 -- Sen. Ted Kennedy, who began treatment last year for brain cancer, was hospitalized after he had a seizure
today at an inaugural luncheon in Washington, D.C. Paramedics called to the
scene transported him to Washington Hospital Center, where he was said to be
alert and doing well.
"Senator Edward Kennedy experienced a seizure today while attending a
luncheon for President Barack Obama in the U.S. Capitol," Edward Aulisi,
MD, chairman of neurosurgery at Washington Hospital Center, said in a
statement. "After testing, we believe the incident was brought on by simple
fatigue. Senator Kennedy is awake, talking with family and friends, and
feeling well. He will remain at the Washington Hospital Center overnight for
observation, and will be released in the morning."
At the luncheon, Obama called Kennedy a "warrior for justice" and
said his prayers are with Kennedy and his family.
May 2008, Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant glioma, a type of brain
cancer. Kennedy had
brain surgery at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., in June
2008. At the time, Kennedy's doctors said that surgery was "successful"
and that Kennedy would get radiation therapy and chemotherapy at Massachusetts
Seizures are not uncommon in
brain tumor patients with a history of seizures, notes Orrin Devinsky, MD,
professor of neurology and director of the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at
New York University's Langone Medical Center.
Such a seizure "could result from a portion of brain tumor that could
not be removed, scar tissue from the surgery, regrowth of the tumor,
[spontaneous] drops in his medication level,"
sleep deprivation, or stress, says
Devinsky, adding that the stress could have come from a happy event, such as
the inauguration. "He may have been truly very emotional and positively
excited in a good way, but nevertheless it could still be a stressor on an
individual," says Devinsky.
Devinsky, who is not treating Kennedy, says at a hospital, doctors would
likely check Kennedy's medication level and perhaps order a new brain scan,
unless Kennedy had recently had a brain scan and didn't need a new one.
Kennedy may also get his medication changed. "The fact that there's been
a breakthrough seizure may be an indicator that he needs more medication, or
conceivably the medication he's
currently on may not be the most effective one for his specific case, but
without knowing the details, it's really hard to say," Devinsky
"With brain tumors, sometimes
the seizures are really hard to control," Cynthia Harden, MD, professor of
neurology and director of the epilepsy center at the University of Miami Miller
School of Medicine, tells WebMD.
Harden points out that among
epilepsy patients who don't have brain tumors, "a large percentage of those
patients do really well," but that it can be harder to control seizures in
brain tumor patients, who are "generally at higher risk for seizure
recurrence, even on medicine."
SOURCES:ABC News.CNN.USA Today.Associated Press.WebMD Health News: "
Sen. Ted Kennedy Has Brain Cancer."WebMD Health News: "
Sen. Ted Kennedy Out of Brain Surgery."Orrin Devinsky, MD, professor of neurology, director, NYU Comprehensive
Epilepsy Center.Cynthia Harden, MD, professor of neurology, chief, Epilepsy Division,
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
The Health News section does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.