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Hemispherectomy appears safe for children with severe epilepsy

26 February, 2003

Hemispherectomy, a procedure in which half the brain is removed, appears to be safe and effective for children with certain types of severe epilepsy, according to an article in the journal Brain.

When the seizures do not respond to anti-epileptic medication and stem from one side of the brain, hemispherectomy may be one form of surgery that is advised.

Researchers at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London studied 33 children, aged between 4 months and 17 years, who had undergone the operation between 1991 and 1997. At the time of follow up, on average three years later, 52 per cent of the patients were seizure free, 9 per cent "rarely" had seizures, 30 per cent had a reduction of seizures of more than 75 per cent with the remaining 9 per cent seeing little or no improvement.

The researchers said that none of the children experienced significant cognitive deterioration or loss of language following surgery. In fact, 4 children saw significant cognitive improvement and 92 per cent of those with behavioural problems before the operation saw improvements in their behaviour after surgery.