Theodore H. Schwartz and Dennis D. Spencer
Object. Prior reports of seizure control following reoperation for failed epilepsy surgery have shown good results. These studies included patients who presented during the era preceding magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, and the patients were often not monitored intracranially or underwent subtotal hippocampal resections. In this study, the authors hypothesized that reoperation for recurrent seizures following a more comprehensive initial workup and surgery would not yield such good results.
Methods. The authors examined a consecutive series of patients who underwent two operations at Yale—New Haven Hospital for medically intractable epilepsy and in whom there was a minimum of 1-year follow up after the second surgery. All patients were evaluated and treated according to a standard protocol, including preoperative MR imaging, a low threshold for invasive monitoring, and a radical amygdalohippocampectomy when indicated.
Twenty-seven patients were identified (five with mesial temporal sclerosis, 20 with neocortical disease, and two with multifocal sites of seizure onset) of whom six (22%) underwent intentionally palliative second surgery (corpus callostomy or placement of a vagus nerve stimulator [VNS]). Of the remaining 21 patients, only four (19%) became seizure free after a second resective operation. The most common causes of treatment failure were dual pathology, recurrent tumor, limited resection to preserve function, widespread developmental abnormalities, and electrographic sampling error. Successful outcomes resulted from removal of recurrent tumors, completion of a functional hemispherectomy, or repeated invasive monitoring to correct a sampling error. Five (83%) of the six intentionally palliative second operations resulted in more than a 50% decrease in seizure frequency.
Conclusions. If an aggressive preoperative evaluation and surgical resection are performed, reoperation for recurrent seizures has a much lower likelihood of cure than previously reported. Intentionally palliative surgery such as placement of a VNS unit may be considered for patients in whom the initial operation fails to decrease seizure frequency.