Role of optically pumped magnetometers in presurgical epilepsy evaluation: Commentary of the American Clinical Magnetoencephalography Society

Epilepsia. 2023 Dec;64(12):3155-3159. doi: 10.1111/epi.17770. Epub 2023 Oct 3.

Abstract

One of the major challenges of modern epileptology is the underutilization of epilepsy surgery for treatment of patients with focal, medication resistant epilepsy (MRE). Aggravating this distressing failure to deliver optimum care to these patients is the underuse of proven localizing tools, such as magnetoencephalography (MEG), a clinically validated, non-invasive, neurophysiological method used to directly measure and localize brain activity. A sizable mass of published evidence indicates that MEG can improve identification of surgical candidates and guide pre-surgical planning, increasing the yield of SEEG and improving operative outcomes. However, despite at least 10 common, evidence supported, clinical scenarios in MRE patients where MEG can offer non-redundant information and improve the pre-surgical evaluation, it is regularly used by only a minority of USA epilepsy centers. The current state of the art in MEG sensors employs SQUIDs, which require cooling with liquid helium to achieve superconductivity. This sensor technology has undergone significant generational improvement since whole head MEG scanners were introduced around in 1990s, but still has limitations. Further advances in sensor technology which may make ME G more easily accessible and affordable have been eagerly awaited, and development of new techniques should be encouraged. Of late, optically pumped magnetometers (OPMs) have received considerable attention, even prompting some potential acquisitions of new MEG systems to be put on hold, based on a hope that OPMs will usher in a new generation of MEG equipment and procedures. The development of any new clinical test used to guide intracranial EEG monitoring and/or surgical planning must address several specific issues. The goal of this commentary is to recognize the current state of OPM technology and to suggest a framework for it to advance in the clinical realm where it can eventually be deemed clinically valuable to physicians and patients. The American Clinical MEG Society (ACMEGS) strongly supports more advanced and less expensive technology and looks forward to continuing work with researchers to develop new sensors and clinical devices which will improve the experience and outcome for patients, and perhaps extend the role of MEG. However, currently, there are no OPM devices ready for practical clinical use. Based on the engineering obstacles and the clinical tradeoffs to be resolved, the assessment of experts suggests that there will most likely be another decade relying solely on "frozen SQUIDs" in the clinical MEG field.

Keywords: clinical indications; epilepsy surgery; magnetoencephalography; medication resistant epilepsy; optically pumped magnetometers; superconducting quantum interference device.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain / surgery
  • Electrocorticography
  • Epilepsy* / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography* / methods