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Alexander G. Weil, Aria Fallah, Evan C. Lewis and Sanjiv Bhatia


Insular lobe epilepsy (ILE) is an under-recognized cause of extratemporal epilepsy and explains some epilepsy surgery failures in children with drug-resistant epilepsy. The diagnosis of ILE usually requires invasive investigation with insular sampling; however, the location of the insula below the opercula and the dense middle cerebral artery vasculature renders its sampling challenging. Several techniques have been described, ranging from open direct placement of orthogonal subpial depth and strip electrodes through a craniotomy to frame-based stereotactic placement of orthogonal or oblique electrodes using stereo-electroencephalography principles. The authors describe an alternative method for sampling the insula, which involves placing insular depth electrodes along the long axis of the insula through the insular apex following dissection of the sylvian fissure in conjunction with subdural electrodes over the lateral hemispheric/opercular region. The authors report the feasibility, advantages, disadvantages, and role of this approach in investigating pediatric insular-opercular refractory epilepsy.


The authors performed a retrospective analysis of all children (< 18 years old) who underwent invasive intracranial studies involving the insula between 2002 and 2015.


Eleven patients were included in the study (5 boys). The mean age at surgery was 7.6 years (range 0.5–16 years). All patients had drug-resistant epilepsy as defined by the International League Against Epilepsy and underwent comprehensive noninvasive epilepsy surgery workup. Intracranial monitoring was performed in all patients using 1 parasagittal insular electrode (1 patient had 2 electrodes) in addition to subdural grids and strips tailored to the suspected epileptogenic zone. In 10 patients, extraoperative monitoring was used; in 1 patient, intraoperative electrocorticography was used alone without extraoperative monitoring. The mean number of insular contacts was 6.8 (range 4–8), and the mean number of fronto-parieto-temporal hemispheric contacts was 61.7 (range 40–92). There were no complications related to placement of these depth electrodes. All 11 patients underwent subsequent resective surgery involving the insula.


Parasagittal transinsular apex depth electrode placement is a feasible alternative to orthogonally placed open or oblique-placed stereotactic methodologies. This method is safe and best suited for suspected unilateral cases with a possible extensive insular-opercular epileptogenic zone.