Routine scalp electroencephalography (EEG) cannot always distinguish whether generalized epileptiform discharges are the result of primary bilateral synchrony or secondary bilateral synchrony (SBS) from a focal origin; this is an important distinction because the latter may be amenable to resection. Whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) has superior spatial resolution compared with traditional EEG, and can potentially elucidate seizure foci in challenging epilepsy cases in which patients are undergoing evaluation for surgery.
Sixteen patients with medically intractable epilepsy in whom SBS was suspected were referred for magnetic source (MS) imaging. All patients had bilateral, synchronous, widespread, and most often generalized spike-wave discharges on scalp EEG studies, plus some other clinical (for example, seizure semiology) or MR imaging feature (for example, focal lesion) suggesting focal onset and hence possible surgical candidacy. The MS imaging modality is the combination of whole-head MEG and parametric reconstruction of corresponding electrical brain sources. An MEG and simultaneous EEG studies were recorded with a 275-channel whole-head system. Single-equivalent current dipoles were estimated from the MEG data, and dipole locations and orientations were superimposed on patients' MR images.
The MS imaging studies revealed focal dipole clusters in 12 (75%) of the 16 patients, of which a single dipole cluster was identified in 7 patients (44%). Patient age, seizure type, duration of disease, video-EEG telemetry, and MR imaging results were analyzed to determine factors predictive of having clusters revealed on MS imaging. Of these factors, only focal MR imaging anatomical abnormalities were associated with dipole clusters (chi-square test, p = 0.03). Selective resections (including the dipole cluster) in 7 (87%) of 8 patients resulted in seizure-free or rare seizure outcomes (Engel Classes I and II).
Magnetic source imaging may provide noninvasive anatomical and neurophysiological confirmation of localization in patients in whom there is a suspicion of SBS (based on clinical or MR imaging data), especially in those with an anatomical lesion. Identification of a focal seizure origin has significant implications for both resective and nonresective treatment of intractable epilepsy.