Epilepsy surgery


What is epilepsy surgery?

Epilepsy surgery is a procedure that is performed when patients with epilepsy do not respond adequately to medication. This is relevant to approximately 20% of cases and in these cases; the patient’s quality of life is severely affected by this ailment.

The surgical technique used depends on each patient and consists of removing the area of the brain that produces epileptic seizures as long as this does not damage brain areas necessary for normal functioning.

Why is epilepsy surgery done?

In some cases, medications are unable to control seizures, which is known medically as drug-resistant epilepsy. The goal of epilepsy surgery is to eradicate seizures or limit their severity, without the need for medication.

What are the risks of an epileptic seizure?

If epilepsy is poorly-controlled it may result with any of the following:

  • Physical injuries
  • Drowning if a seizure occurs (when you are in water) 
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Decline in memory
  • Developmental delays in children
  • Sudden death (which is very rare)

What are the risks of epilepsy surgery?

The risks of surgery depend on which part of the brain would need treatment and the type of surgical procedure. Risks may include memory and language problems, visual impairment and mood changes. The surgeon will discuss the potential risks of surgery with you to ensure that you fully understand.

What are the types of epilepsy brain surgery?

There are different types of epilepsy surgery, including procedures where only part of the brain is taken away (resection surgery). The different types of resection surgery are:

  • Temporal lobectomy – brain tissue from the temporal lobes that cause seizures is cut away.
  • Extratemporal resection – brain tissue in other parts of the brain is cut away
  • Lesionectomy – tumours or abscesses that have been causing seizures is cut away.

If resection surgery is not possible, there are other types of surgeries where one part of the brain is disconnected from another part. These include:

  • Hemispherectomy – where the outer layer of one half of the brain is removed.
  • Corpus callosotomy – the connections between the two sides of the brain are cut.
  • Multiple subpial transections – the nerve fibres in the outer layers of the brain are cut.

What happens during epilepsy surgery?

This depends on the type of surgery. A general anaesthetic will put you to sleep and the surgeon will make a small opening in your skull to get to your brain.

In some cases, the surgeon will wake you up during the operation to help locate the part of your brain that controls language and movement. After surgery, the bone is replaced and fixed to the skull to heal.

Will my seizures stop after epilepsy surgery?

The results of surgery will depend on the individual case and the type of epilepsy surgery. Your doctor will discuss with you what your expected success rate of surgery will be.

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