Almost half of patients were seizure free 26 years after epilepsy surgery, while 80% said their quality of life had improved, reveals the largest long term study of its kind, published in the journal Epilepsia.
Epilepsy surgery is safe and effective, but drug treatment is still the most commonly used option to control epileptic seizures, which affect more than 50 million people worldwide.
Previous research has shown that that while most people with epilepsy do respond to antiepileptic drugs, the drugs don’t work well in almost a third.
To assess long term seizure control, researchers analysed survey data on seizure frequency and quality of life outcomes for 361 patients who had surgery for their condition between 1967 and 1990.
In total, 117 patients completed all the follow-up interviews for the study, 48% of whom were free of disabling seizures, and 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.
“In cases where medical therapy fails to control seizures, epilepsy surgery is a safe and effective treatment option,” explains lead author Dr Matthew Smyth, of the 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,” he added.
A 2001 study estimated that less than 0.1% of the more than 4 million people worldwide who could benefit actually undergo epilepsy surgery.