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What happens before, during and after surgery in children

These pages are about surgery in the UK. If you are looking for information about surgery in another country, please contact your local epilepsy organisation.

Before surgery

Your child will be very carefully prepared for surgery in the operating theatre. They will be put to sleep with a general anaesthetic. Altogether, this part of the operation may take up to 2 hours.

During surgery

What happens during surgery will depend on the type of surgery the child is having. Most children will have a small cut made in their skull, so that the surgeon can see their brain. The surgeon may then remove some bone. On rare occasions, and only usually in children older than 12 years, the surgeon may wake the child up during part of the operation. This is done so that they can find the part of the brain that controls language and movement. The surgeon will explain to your child why this happens. Afterwards, the bone is replaced and fixed to the skull for healing.

Most epilepsy brain surgery takes at least 4 to 6 hours, and sometimes longer.

After surgery

After their surgery, your child:

  • Will have a swollen and painful head and face from a few days to 2 weeks. One or both eyes may be swollen and difficult to open
  • Will need to take painkillers for a few days
  • Will need to rest and relax for a few weeks, but gradually become more active
  • Will probably stay away from school for a few weeks, but most children are back by 6 weeks. This should be discussed with your child’s surgery team
  • Shouldn’t play contact sports for at least 4 to 6 months

After surgery care

Once your child leaves hospital, their care will be shared between the CESS centre and the doctor who referred them for surgery.

Epilepsy medicine after surgery

Your child will usually need to continue taking their epilepsy medicine for between 6 months and 2 years after their epilepsy surgery. The decision about reducing or stopping it will depend on whether or not they are still having seizures, and your thoughts and feelings. If their medicine is reduced, this will be done gradually. You will be told how to do this, and will be supported during the process.

Follow-up appointments

Yours child’s local healthcare team will:

  • Arrange follow-up appointments to check their progress after surgery
  • Keep in touch with your child, possibly for several years after surgery
  • Arrange any development, emotional, behaviour or local services your child needs

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.


Epilepsy Action wishes to thank Prof. Richard Appleton, honorary professor in paediatric neurology and Dr Tim Martland, consultant paediatric neurologist at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and Lead Clinician for NorCESS for their contributions.

Prof. Appleton and Dr Martland have declared no conflict of interest.

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated May 2017
    To be reviewed May 2020

Comments: read the 2 comments or add yours


Our group aims to help as many people and their families as possible through surgery. We do so by sharing experiences online and by organising local group meetings where members get together to share views face to face. The group is closely monitored by its members so anyone who joins gets friendly responses to make them feel safe and that we are all there to help each other. facebook.com/epilepsysurgeryfriends

Submitted by Anthony Williams on

Thank you for talking on such a complicated topic. Honestly, I wish there was no need to know this information! It's very important to cover this issue in a supportive way like that!
The Term Papers's Writer

Submitted by Larry on