Health Team

Surgery vs. medication for seizure treatment

Posted December 2, 2008 5:45 p.m. EST
Updated December 2, 2008 6:11 p.m. EST

A new study shows that anti-seizure surgery may have significant benefits for patients suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy – the most common type of the seizure-causing condition.

Researchers compared the long-term effects of surgery and the efficacy of medication.

The study showed that, on average, for a 35-year-old patient, surgery improves people's quality of life and increases their length of life by almost five years. It increases the number of seizure-free years by more than 13.

“The biggest benefit of surgery is significant improvement in seizure control compared to medication management,” Columbia University Medical Center's Dr. Hyumi Choi said.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

There are risks of surgical side effects – including infection and memory problems.

“If seizures are not completely controlled by at least two different medications, patients should consider getting a further evaluation and consider epilepsy surgery as a possibility,” Choi said.

The surgery for temporal lobe epilepsy is not commonly performed. Only a small percentage of eligible patients choose it.

Four years ago, Scott Harding – a father, husband and police detective – began having seizures. He was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy.

“It was eye-opening. It was humbling,” Harding said.

Medication didn't help, so Harding chose to undergo anti-seizure surgery.

“I have not had a seizure since the surgery. I'm seizure-free for over three years,” Harding said. “I have my life back.”

Harding is confident that his epilepsy is now a thing of the past.