Neurosurgery for epilepsy

Most people with epilepsy have their seizures well-controlled by medication. However, for a small number of people who have tried all suitable available anti-epileptic drugs and not achieved control, surgery may be an option. Because of the possible risks involved and the fact that surgery for epilepsy is not readily available, this option is only used when other treatments have been unsuccessful.

If a consultant believes that surgery might be an option, a number of tests have to be carried out. These will investigate, for example, whether there is an area in the brain which can be operated on, how safe this would be, and the likely success in terms of seizure control.

The people we interviewed who'd had surgery discussed the various tests used to decide whether surgery was an option. One person described some of the tests he had just before and during the operation, while another recalled her concerns at the time.

People also discussed their thoughts about the risks involved and their decisions to go ahead with the operation. For many of these people, surgery was a source of hope after years of poorly controlled seizures. One woman explained how a brain tumour was found during surgery and that having the operation was as much for her daughter as it was for her.

Another person explained why she decided to have surgery in the USA rather than the UK, although doing this is very rare. She also discussed her feelings before the operation. Other men and women, all of whom had their surgery in the UK, recalled how they felt immediately after the operation. Some people reported having severe headaches, but also recommended surgery for epilepsy.

People who became seizure free after having surgery noted the improvements to their lives. A few mentioned that, though they were now seizure free, they very occasionally experienced auras or panic attacks under stress. One man described how neurosurgery had changed his life although he was still having auras. One woman explained how she became seizure free two years after surgery and why she preferred to continue taking medication.

For some people, while surgery improves the frequency and intensity of seizures, it does not stop them completely. This man explained that, despite having two operations for epilepsy, he was still having seizures. Several people also discussed the effects of surgery on their memory.

Last reviewed May 2016.
Last updated May 2016.


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