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Depression and anxiety improve after epilepsy surgery - research

15 December, 2005

A new study has
found that depression and anxiety - common problems for people whose
epilepsy cannot be controlled by medication - improve significantly
after epilepsy surgery.

The study, published in the journal Neurology,
found that the rate of depression and anxiety disorders decreased by
more than 50 percent up to two years after the surgery. People who no
longer experienced any seizures after surgery were even more likely to
be free of depression and anxiety.

The
research involved 360 people with epilepsy who were undergoing surgery
to remove the area of the brain producing the seizures. The
participants' mental health and any symptoms of depression and anxiety
were evaluated before surgery and at regular intervals afterwards.

Before
surgery, 22 per cent of the participants met the criteria for a
diagnosis of depression, compared to nine per cent two years after the
surgery. For anxiety disorders, 18 per cent met the criteria for a
diagnosis before the surgery, compared to 10 percent two years after
the surgery. Of those who had no seizures following surgery, 8 per cent
met the criteria for depression, compared to 18 per cent of those who
still had some seizures after surgery.

Study author Dr Orrin Devinsky, from the New York University School of Medicine, commented:

"These
results are important because depression and anxiety can significantly
affect the quality of life. For people with refractory epilepsy,
studies show that depression is more likely to affect their quality of
life than how often they have seizures or how many drugs they have to
take.

"Removing
dysfunctional areas of the brain may be critical. Whether the benefit
comes from reducing or eliminating seizures or other effects is not
clear. People may also be benefiting from an improved sense of
self-control, less fear of seizures, higher activity levels and a
lessened burden from medications."