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Brain. 2005 Jun;128(Pt 6):1344-57. Epub 2005 Mar 9.

Quantitative post-mortem study of the hippocampus in chronic epilepsy: seizures do not inevitably cause neuronal loss.

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  • 1Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy, Institute of Neurology, University College, London, UK. M.Thom@ion.ucl.ac.uk


Hippocampal sclerosis describes a pattern of neuronal loss and gliosis involving the medial temporal structures most often encountered in patients with epilepsy. It is still a matter for debate as to whether this lesion is acquired during the course of the patient's seizure history or is present at the outset. Early febrile seizures, episodes of status epilepticus as well as repetitive brief seizures may all contribute to the evolution of hippocampal sclerosis. In addition, genetic factors and developmental abnormalities of the hippocampus may both increase vulnerability to seizures and hippocampal injury. Recent human studies have addressed neuropathological changes in young adults and children undergoing surgery for refractory seizures with hippocampal sclerosis. Post-mortem examination, however, provides the opportunity to evaluate the effect of a lifetime of seizures on both left and right hippocampi, and the presence of any co-existing malformation. Post-mortem stereological analysis of 28 patients with poorly controlled seizures has confirmed a subgroup with absence of significant hippocampal neuronal loss despite decades of generalized seizures, including status epilepticus. The presence of granule cell dispersion correlated to the severity of hippocampal neuronal loss. Furthermore, in patients with confirmed hippocampal sclerosis at post-mortem examination, stereological assessment of the neocortex failed to confirm significant white matter neuronal heterotopia that might indicate an underlying developmental abnormality. In conclusion, seizures do not invariably lead to hippocampal injury and white matter heterotopia is not invariably associated with hippocampal sclerosis.

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