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Types of Brain Surgery for Epilepsy

More than three million people in the U.S. suffer from epilepsy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one-third of people with epilepsy don't respond to medications used to treat seizures. For those people, surgery may be an option to eliminate or reduce seizures in the future.

There are two types of epilepsy surgery:

  • Traditional or "open" surgeries that require manually removing the portion of the brain causing seizures. The most common is a resection, which removes part of the temporal lobe (the section of the brain involved in vision, memory, language, comprehension, and more).
  • Minimally invasive surgeries that do not require opening the skull such as laser ablation. Other minimally invasive options that do not involve brain surgery, but use neurostimulation device implantations include:

Choosing the Best Epilepsy Surgery for You

If you and your doctor have decided that surgery is the best treatment for your epilepsy, your doctor will discuss your options based on the following factors:

  • where the seizures occur in your brain,
  • how well you respond to treatment, and
  • many other factors.

It is safe for both adults and children to have brain surgery for seizures. Your doctor will help you understand any additional risks for children and may not recommend surgery until your child reaches a certain age.

Preparing for Surgery

To prepare for surgery, your doctor will do some tests and evaluations. The most common are EEGs (electroencelphalograms used to find electrical activity problems in the brain), including overnight monitored EEGs in an epilepsy unit, and any other imaging tests.

Your doctor may also order other imaging tests such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or PET (positron-emission tomography) scans, if necessary. You will also get a neuropsychological evaluation, which includes a variety of tests done by a neuropsychologist to get a baseline for your cognitive function prior to surgery. If the surgery is for a child under three years old, the doctor will order a developmental evaluation. 

Make sure you talk to your doctor about your test results including the reasons why surgery is the best treatment option. You should also schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor and notify your other specialists to let them know you are having neurosurgery.

In the six to eight weeks before your surgery, you should:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Continue to exercise or remain as active as possible.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Keep taking your regular seizure medications as instructed by your doctor.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions for stopping other medications.
  • Talk to your family and friends about your upcoming surgery.
  • Discuss any concerns or feelings about the surgery with your doctor.
  • Work with your care team to determine what kind of support you will need after surgery. 

Before the surgery begins, you will meet with your surgical team and neurosurgeon to discuss the procedure and go over any questions or concerns you might have.

Find a Provider

Make an Appointment with Our Neurologists

You will need a referral from your primary care physician or another provider to be seen in our Epilepsy Clinic. Call 801-585-7575 to schedule an initial appointment after you are referred. Our team will help coordinate your care to see an epileptologist (a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy) for evaluation and schedule any necessary testing for an accurate diagnosis. 

If you are a candidate for surgery, our surgical coordinators will help you schedule any necessary testing and diagnostic procedures in advance. We will also schedule an appointment for you to meet with the neurosurgeon.

Most epilepsy tests and treatment are covered by insurance. We will work with your insurance carrier to determine what is covered under your plan and obtain pre-authorization, as needed, before your treatment. If you have questions about what is covered under your insurance plan, contact your insurance carrier directly.

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