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This article was published in December 2012. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

Epilepsy in children: surgery

18 Dec 2012

Teddy bear in hospital bedA recent study has shown that surgery for children with epilepsy can completely remove the need for epilepsy medicines. Around 40 per cent of people with epilepsy develop it before the age of 15.

If people do not respond to medication, epilepsy surgery can be used to remove the part of the brain that is causing the seizures. New research has been completed by Martha Feucht and Gudrun Groppel at the Epilepsy Centre in the children’s department at the Vienna General Hospital and MedUni Vienna.

Before now, it was not known when was the best time to stop taking medication after surgery without increasing the chances of a seizure. The international research team has discovered that stopping medication, even immediately after surgery can be beneficial and does not affect the outcome of recovery.

Dr Martha Feucht speaks about the benefits of discontinuing medication, she says: “If the epilepsy surgery was 100 per cent successful, patients no longer need to take epilepsy medicines. Early and rapid discontinuation of the medication after the operation does not influence the subsequent outcome of the recovery.”

Three children smiling in a climbing frameUntil now, stopping medication immediately has not been recommended by medics. Dr Feucht says: “On the contrary, early discontinuation unmasks any inadequate surgical results and therefore leads to new diagnostic procedures more quickly.”

Researchers believe that the younger the patients are, the more important these findings are for them. “Epilepsy surgery procedures are already being carried out on small children aged just a few months. This means a major improvement in the quality of life of children affected by the condition, and better chances of post-operative development that is as free from problems as possible,” says Dr Feucht.

Epilepsy surgery in children can be beneficial as another recent study has shown that nearly 60 per cent of children (over half) do not respond to therapy and do not take their medication as prescribed. The study included 124 children with newly diagnosed epilepsy being monitored at Cincinnati Children’s New Onset Seizure Clinic.

Although more than a dozen new epilepsy medicines have been approved in the past 20 years, about 30 per cent (nearly a third) of people with epilepsy have poor seizure control. Joseph I Sirven, MD, says: “When seizures continue despite treatment, the clinician often doesn’t know if it is because the drugs aren’t working or because patients aren’t taking them.”

Caregivers must be honest about giving the children their medicine as prescribed, and then a decision about surgery can be made in their best interest.

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