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Types of epilepsy brain surgery

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.

There are many different types of epilepsy brain surgery. The type your child might have depends on their type of seizures, and where the seizures begin in their brain. Here are some of the most commonly performed types of epilepsy surgery.

Focal resection

This is done when surgeons are sure which part of the brain the seizures start in. Children having this type of surgery have a small part of their brain removed. Although this sounds worrying, the surgeon would only take away damaged parts that aren’t needed. If the part of the brain causing the seizures is in the temporal lobe, the surgery is called a temporal resection. If the part of the brain causing the seizures is in one of the other lobes, it is an extra-temporal resection.

Multiple subpial transection

This surgery is not very common, but is performed when it’s not possible to remove the part of the brain that’s causing the seizures. The surgeon will make a series of cuts to separate the damaged part of the brain from the surrounding area. This stops seizures moving from one part of the brain to other parts.

Corpus callosotomy

This surgery separates the two hemispheres (halves) of the brain. It is mainly used for generalised seizures, particularly frequent drop attacks. It is sometimes used for myoclonic seizures that affect the whole body. It is also sometimes used for severe focal seizures that start in one hemisphere and spread to the other.


This is major surgery to separate, or remove, one half of the outer layer of the brain from the other. It is performed in children who have seizures because one half of their brain is badly damaged or not working properly. Sometimes the hemisphere is not removed, but completely disconnected from the rest of the brain. This is called ‘hemispherotomy’.



Epilepsy Action wishes to thank Dr Richard Appleton, consultant paediatric neurologist at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, UK, for his contribution.

Richard Appleton has no conflict of interest.

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

  • Updated May 2013
    To be reviewed May 2016

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