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Ketamine used to treat encephalitis

When Kate Weston's brain was attacked by a deadly virus, her family were told to expect the worst. But then doctors tried a radical treatment: Special K

When, last August, Kate Weston started experiencing headaches and dizzy spells, she thought she was suffering from exhaustion. At the time, she had two jobs - as a nursery assistant and as a nanny - and assumed running around after children all day was taking its toll.

Unbeknown to Kate, 27, she was in fact experiencing the first effects of a virus that was to have a devastating effect on her life. By the time she went to bed that night complaining of a bad headache, her brain was already swelling within her skull, causing encephalitis. That, in turn, caused damage to her brain which resulted in the condition status epilepticus, which affects 14,000 people in Britain a year, causing them to have epileptic seizures constantly.

Although 50 per cent of status epilepticus patients have some sort of pre-existing epileptic condition, the rest, like Kate, are simply unlucky. Certain areas of the brain are vulnerable to seizures after damage caused by accidents, swelling or viruses. Within a month of her first headache, Kate was in intensive care on a life-support machine in a drug-induced coma, and doctors were baffled as to how to treat her.

That Kate is on the road to recovery today is only thanks to the pioneering work of doctors at London's National Hospital, who as a last resort turned to the drug ketamine. It's a horse tranquilliser, better known as a result of its popularity in the rave scene, where the clubbers who use it to get high call it "Special K".

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Tags : ketamine encephalitis brain
Posted on: 2006-12-05 12:44:12