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What is Epilepsy Surgery?

By H. Lo
Updated May 17, 2024
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Epilepsy surgery is a medical procedure performed to eliminate or reduce epileptic seizures. The surgeon removes the seizure-causing part of the brain. If the patient’s seizures originate from a part of the brain that cannot be removed, the surgeon will then isolate this part of the brain. Usually, epilepsy surgery is recommended for those whose seizures always originate from the same area. In addition, patients qualified for this surgery should have tried, but not benefited from, at least two different seizure medications.

The removal of part of the brain is also known as a temporal lobe resection. For seizures that originate in the temporal lobe, this procedure has a high rate of success. Since this type of epilepsy surgery usually has positive results, the procedure is also the most common form for those with epilepsy.

The isolation of part of the brain can be done through several different methods: corpus callostomy, hemispherectomy and multiple subpial transaction. With corpus callostomy, the surgeon severs the neural connections between the two hemispheres of the brain. Hemispherectomy is when the surgeon removes a much larger part of the brain than a temporal lobe resection, possibly part of one hemisphere or even an entire hemisphere. In multiple subpial transaction, the surgeon makes incisions around the seizure-causing part of the brain. These isolation procedures are performed in an attempt to stop seizures from spreading to other areas of the brain.

For epilepsy surgery, the patient’s hair is shaved so the surgeon can remove the appropriate part of the skull. Usually, the patient is asleep during the procedure, but in some cases, the surgeon might need the patient to be awake to ensure that damage does not occur to important parts of the brain. In general, the surgery will take four hours to complete at minimum. Afterward, the patient will stay in the hospital for several days.

There is no guarantee that epilepsy surgery will stop a patient from having seizures. Results vary from person to person. Some people will discover that they do indeed stop having seizures. Others might have a reduced or even increased amount of seizures. Usually, patients will still have to take seizure medications for a while. The majority of patients who undergo temporal lobe resection benefit from epilepsy surgery.

As with any type of surgery, epilepsy surgery has its risks depending on the type of procedure. The risks revolve around the part of the brain that was removed or isolated, as different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions. Some risks include problems with memory, speech and vision. Paralysis or stroke can also occur.

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