Epilepsy surgery

Epilepsy surgery is a procedure that either removes or isolates the area of your brain where your seizures originate. If the section of your brain where your seizures begin is too vital to remove, your surgeon can make a series of incisions that prevent your seizures from spreading to the rest of your brain.

Epilepsy surgery works best for people who have seizures that always originate in the same place in their brains. To be considered for epilepsy surgery, you must have tried at least two anti-seizure drugs without success. If two appropriate drugs have failed, it is highly unlikely that any other anti-epileptic drug will help you.

Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

In most cases, epilepsy surgery can reduce — and sometimes even eliminate — your seizure activity. Repeated epileptic seizures can cause:

  • Broken bones or other injuries from falling during a seizure
  • Drowning, if the seizure occurs during a bath or swimming
  • Brain damage from prolonged seizures
  • Sudden death, a rare complication of epilepsy

The type of epilepsy surgery you may have depends on the types of seizures you experience and where they begin in your brain. They include:

  • Removing a portion of the brain. The most common type of epilepsy surgery is the removal of the portion of the brain — usually about the size of a golf ball — that's causing the seizures. This type of surgery — called resective surgery — can remove a lobe, a portion of a lobe, or a lesion and is highly successful.
  • Severing connection between hemispheres. Another type of epilepsy surgery, called a corpus callosotomy, severs the network of neural connections between the right and left halves (hemispheres) of the brain. This surgery is used primarily in children who have severe seizures that start in one hemisphere and spread to the other side. This can help reduce the severity of seizures.
  • Removing half the brain. The most radical type of epilepsy surgery removes the outer layer of half the brain. Hemispherectomy is used in children who have seizures because of damage to just one half (hemisphere) of the brain — which occurs in a few rare conditions that are present at birth or that appear in early infancy. The chance of a full recovery is best in younger children.

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