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Epilepsy Surgery May Be Best Bet When Medications Fail


"In selected patients surgery can be a very important option," says Solomon L. Moshe, MD. "The important thing is to identify the best candidates for surgery, because each patient is different." Moshe is professor of neurology, neuroscience and pediatrics, director of pediatric neurology, and director of clinical neurophysiology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Researchers reviewed information from medical studies conducted to date and found that surgery for epilepsy caused by minor abnormalities in a certain region of the brain is successful about 41% of the time. In other words, these patients were seizure-free two years after surgery. The success rates of surgery for other, better-studied forms of epilepsy are even higher.

These abnormalities are typically a rare congenital condition, so the surgery is sometimes done on very young children. "If you decide to do surgery early on, there is a greater chance the remaining part of the brain will be able to compensate," Moshe says. "This article tells us after surgery, 41% of patients stopped having seizures for two years -- that's a pretty good result. We need to improve our selection of patients, so we can have even better outcomes in the future."

When physicians are considering surgery for epilepsy, they order several sophisticated tests, which help them to decide if the patient would be a good candidate for the surgery. These tests help the physician identify the parts of the brain that are abnormal and therefore responsible for the seizures.

The best candidates for surgery are those with a specific brain area where seizures originate. If that part of the brain can be removed, the seizures will cease. However, sometimes there is no specific area or the specific area is in an essential part of the brain, so that surgery could run the risk of serious harmful consequences.

After facing uncontrolled seizures and then having surgery for her epilepsy, Price today still emphasizes the importance of therapeutic humor and developing a good attitude to cope with all the challenges of life, including epilepsy. "I always had the ability, instead of letting epilepsy hold me down, to just put it aside and find ways to laugh at it," she says.

For more information from WebMD, see our Diseases and Conditions Epilepsy page.

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