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Long-term study shows epilepsy surgery improves seizure control and quality of life

Seizures eliminated in 48 percent of patients and QOL improved in 80 percent of patients according to 26-year follow-up

While epilepsy surgery is a safe and effective intervention for seizure control, medical therapy remains the more prominent treatment option for those with epilepsy.

However, a new 26-year study reveals that following epilepsy surgery, nearly half of participants were free of disabling seizures and 80% reported better quality of life than before surgery. Findings from this study—the largest long-term study to date—are now available in Epilepsia, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE).

More than 50 million individuals worldwide suffer from seizures caused by epilepsy according to a 2001 report by the World Health Organization (WHO). Medical evidence shows that compared with the general population, epilepsy patients have significantly poorer health-related quality of life, higher rates of co-morbidites, and lower rates of employment, marriage, and education levels. Previous studies found that while a majority of those with epilepsy do respond to antiepileptic drugs, over 30% patients are refractory to medical therapy.

"In cases where medical therapy fails to control seizures, epilepsy surgery is a safe and effective treatment option," explains lead author Dr. Matthew Smyth with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. "Despite the increase in the number of epilepsy surgeries performed, and reports in the medical literature of the success of surgery relative to medication, it remains an underutilized therapy for seizure control." A 2001 study estimated that less than 0.1% of the more than 4 million people worldwide who could benefit from epilepsy surgery actually receive the intervention.

To advance understanding of long-term seizure control rates, researchers analyzed data of seizure and quality of life outcomes for 361 patients who underwent epilepsy surgery between 1967 and 1990; Dr. Sidney Goldring, a prominent neurosurgeon and pioneer of epilepsy surgery, performed the procedures. Patients were then surveyed to assess seizure control and quality of life.

Of the 361 patients, 117 completed follow-up interviews for the study and 48% were determined to be free of disabling seizures. On a survey assessing the quality of life for those with epilepsy, 80% of patients reported their overall quality life was better than before the surgery. As the authors expected, surgical complications and mortality following surgery declined over the long-term. No statistically significant association between postoperative complications and long-term seizure control or quality of life outcomes was observed.

"Our findings demonstrate that the benefits of epilepsy surgery are sustained over long time periods," concludes Dr. Smyth. "Increased use of surgical intervention offers patients with epilepsy the possibility of long-term seizure control and improved quality of life."

This study is published in Epilepsia. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact

Full citation:"Impact of Epilepsy Surgery on Seizure Control and Quality of Life: A 26-year Follow-up Study." Hussan S. Mohammed, Christian B. Kaufman, David D. Limbrick, Karen Steger-May, Robert L. Grubb Jr., Steven M. Rothman, Judy Weisenberg, Rebecca Munro, Matthew D. Smyth. Epilepsia; February 7, 2012 (DOI:10.1111/j.1528-1167.2011.03398.x).

URL Upon publication:
Author contact:To arrange an interview with Dr. Smyth, please contact Jackie Ferman with Washington University at

Epilepsia is the leading, most authoritative source for current clinical and research results on all aspects of epilepsy. As the journal of the International League Against Epilepsy, subscribers every month will review scientific evidence and clinical methodology in: clinical neurology, neurophysiology, molecular biology, neuroimaging, neurochemistry, neurosurgery, pharmacology, neuroepidemiology, and therapeutic trials. For more information, please visit

The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) is the world's preeminent association of physicians and health professionals working toward a world where no person's life is limited by epilepsy. Since 1909 the ILAE has provided educational and research resources that are essential in understanding, diagnosing and treating persons with epilepsy. The ILAE supports health professionals, patients, and their care providers, governments, and the general public worldwide by advancing knowledge of epilepsy. For information about ILAE, please visit

Wiley-Blackwell is the international scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons, with strengths in every major academic and professional field and partnerships with many of the world's leading societies. Wiley-Blackwell publishes nearly 1,500 peer-reviewed journals and 1,500+ new books annually in print and online, as well as databases, major reference works and laboratory protocols. For more information, please visit or our new online platform, Wiley Online Library (, one of the world's most extensive multidisciplinary collections of online resources, covering life, health, social and physical sciences, and humanities.

Dawn Peters | EurekAlert!
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