How does surgery treat seizure disorders?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Surgery is used to treat some people with seizure disorders, also known as epilepsy, when medications do not control their symptoms. Surgery is only effective in the treatment of certain kinds of epilepsy, and this usually depends on what part of the brain is affected by the seizures. This is because a small part of the brain might be removed during the surgery, and it has to be a part of the brain that you can live without. In the most common type of surgery for epilepsy, a procedure known as a lobectomy or lesionectomy, a surgeon removes the tiny part of the brain where the seizures occur. If the seizures are not located in a part of the brain that can be removed or occur in a larger portion of the brain, a surgeon might perform a procedure called a multiple subpial transection, which involves disrupting the flow of communication between the misfiring neurons in the brain with a series of small cuts. In some people with severe seizures, particularly children, a surgeon may sever the communication between the misfiring neurons in the left and right halves of the brain in a procedure called a corpus callosotomy. Another more radical surgical approach to severe epilepsy in young children is the removal of half of the outer layer of the brain (called the cortex) in a procedure called a hemispherectomy or hemispherotomy.

The success rates for the various surgical treatments for epilepsy depend on the severity of the disorder, but can range from 50 to 90 percent in some cases. Many people who have this kind of surgery still need to take antiepileptic medication after the surgery, but can usually reduce their dosage.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.