Curing Epilepsy with Brain Surgery

Two-thirds of people with severe and otherwise untreatable epilepsy were completely cured of their frequent seizures after brain surgery, researchers reportedDoctors at at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, conducted neurosurgery on 143 epileptic patients for whom all other treatments had failed and found that they were seizure-free two years afterward.“Surgery can be a powerful way to stop this disorder in its tracks,” said UCSF Neurosurgeon Edward Chang, who led study. “Many of these people were living 10, 15 or 20 years with very severe and dangerous seizures.”

Chang explained that the success of the surgery was directly related to the accuracy with which the medical team could map the brain and identify the exact pieces of tissue responsible for an individual’s seizures.

After the doctors identified the malfunctioning tissue sections, they could then remove them – thus curing the seizures.

“We need to continue to focus on developing new methods to figure out and pinpoint where the seizures are coming from,” Chang said.

About two million people in the United States suffer from epilepsy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Epileptic seizures can range in severity, from slight muscle twitches to severe convulsions, and frequency.

For people with severe, untreatable epilepsy, brain surgery typically tends to be the best and last hope for a cure.  When the surgery works, it can completely cure the seizures overnight.

However, it can be difficult to identify individual malformations that cause epilepsy because many are invisible to most forms of imaging.

The better doctors can map the brain and identify the source of the seizures, Chang said, the greater will be the impact of the surgery.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Neurology.