When epilepsy cannot be controlled with medications, surgery may be a safe and effective option. At the University of Chicago, our neurosurgeons have been performing epilepsy surgery for nearly 20 years--with excellent results.
Non-Invasive Surgical Evaluation
Sophisticated diagnostic techniques help our team plan surgical procedures in advance and with greater precision. Information from 3-D computer models of the patient's epileptic focus allow our surgeons to locate the area of the brain that's responsible for seizures. In fact, these models have helped us identify brain abnormalities that were missed on prior MRI studies. Such patients--who otherwise might have gone untreated--were then able to undergo surgery to control their seizures.
Our advanced diagnostic techniques offer one other major advantage: About 50 percent of our surgical patients can forgo having an initial operation to implant electrodes in their brain. This procedure is commonly performed before epilepsy surgery to obtain the type of detailed information we get from our 3-D models and non-invasive diagnostic tests.
The risks associated with invasive electrode monitoring are small, but a single operation is certainly more desirable than a two-stage procedure. In the future, we hope that further advances in diagnostic functional and structural imaging will eliminate the need for invasive monitoring in all our patients.
Our neurosurgeons provide a complete range of safe and effective surgical interventions. These include the following:
- Lobectomy. People with partial seizures that always start in the same lobe of the brain are good candidates for this type of surgery. The operation removes some or all of the lobe. Success rates are good with this type of surgery: Sixty-five to 85 percent of patients who undergo a temporal lobectomy gain total freedom from seizures.
- Multiple Subpial Transection. This procedure involves making small incisions in the brain so as to interrupt seizure activity. Candidates for this surgery include those who have seizures that begin or spread to areas of the brain that cannot be removed without causing major side effects.
- Vagal Nerve Stimulation. This minimally invasive procedure involves implanting an electrical stimulator under the skin beneath the collar bone that is connected to electrode wires that wrap around the vagus nerve in the neck.
If surgery is recommended, the sooner it can be performed the better. By eliminating or reducing the number of seizures, patients are spared the side effects of frequent seizures and long-term epilepsy medications.
Is Epilepsy Surgery an Option for You?
The key to successful epilepsy surgery is making sure that patients are good candidates for such procedures. Some types of seizures respond better to surgery than others. For surgery to be recommended, our team must determine that:
- The patient's seizures are intractable despite all appropriate anti-epileptic drug combinations.
- The patient's seizures arise from one site in the brain.
- The location of the site has been pinpointed.
- The removal of that portion of the brain will not impair the patient's ability to function.
Surgical candidates undergo an array of sophisticated diagnostic tests that help our team determine the source of your seizures.