The earlier the better for epilepsy surgery

Published: December 06 2019
Last updated: September 29 2022

A person with drug-resistant epilepsy who has early surgery has a better chance of becoming seizure free. This is according to a study in Sweden.

Sahlgrenska Academy researchers analysed results from previous studies. They found that people with drug-resistant epilepsy should be referred for epilepsy surgery evaluation as early as possible.

In Sweden 65,000 people have epilepsy, including 11,000 children. Many are helped by the epilepsy drugs that are available, though not all are seizure-free.

For those that don’t respond to medication, surgery may be effective. However, this is only an option if the seizures happen in a part of the brain that can be operated on.

Kristina Malmgren is senior professor at Sahlgrenska Academy and consultant physician at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. “Drug-resistant epilepsy affects every aspect of life, and no other treatment is as effective as epilepsy surgery. Before the surgical option is chosen, an advanced investigation is needed, to show that the person’s attacks come from [a] limited region in the brain,” she said.

Professor Malmgren and her colleagues analysed the studies which looked at early or later surgery and the chances for seizure freedom. Today, we know that those with drug-resistant epilepsy have a good chance of becoming seizure free or having fewer seizures after surgery.

“Earlier studies have shown that a lot of people who are operated on for epilepsy have had it for many years, often half their lives,” said Professor Malmgren. Some of the studies also show that the chances of seizure freedom improve if the person has surgery earlier rather than later.

It’s important to note that the availability of epilepsy surgery in Sweden likely differs from that in the UK.

The study was published in July 2019 in the journal Neurology.