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Success rates for epilepsy brain 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.

The success rate depends on the type of surgery. Many children no longer have seizures after epilepsy surgery. If they do, they usually have a lot fewer than before, and will need to carry on taking their epilepsy medicine.

Children who have a temporal resection usually do better than children who have an extra-temporal resection. Approximately 7 out of every 10 children who have had surgery will stop having seizures after their surgery.

Benefits and risks

The tests and assessments done before epilepsy surgery are very thorough. They are to make sure that the benefits of surgery are higher than the risk of any complications. And you will be able to discuss them with the surgery team before the final decision is made about surgery for your child. 

Here are some possible risks:

Memory problems

The temporal lobes handle memory and language, so any surgery on the temporal lobes can cause problems with remembering, understanding and speaking. The memory problems can be for things that a child has seen (‘visual memory’) or for things that a child has heard (‘auditory or verbal memory’).

More seizures than before

Cutting the connections between the 2 hemispheres (sides) of the brain in corpus callosotomy stops seizures spreading from one hemisphere to the other. But it doesn’t stop all the seizures, only the drop attacks. In fact, some children may have more focal (partial) seizures, but they are less severe.

Visual symptoms

After removing one hemisphere of the brain in hemispherectomy, a child’s vision might be affected for a few days or weeks. Their vision might be reduced, or they might have double vision. They might also have some problems with their peripheral vision. This could be temporary or permanent, depending on how much of the brain has been removed.

One-sided paralysis

After hemispherectomy or hemispherotomy, a child may have limited use of one side of their body. This paralysis is called a ‘hemiparesis’ or ‘hemiplegia’. Physiotherapy and occupational therapy can help children affected with this.

Behaviour problems

Some children may have had behaviour problems before the surgery. Or they may have had problems communicating or relating to other people. Epilepsy surgery itself will probably not help these problems. It is even possible that a very few children will have worse problems than before.

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.

Code: 
B157.02

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

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