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Epilepsia. 2000;41 Suppl 4:S35-40.

Comparison of the epilepsy surgery programs in Cartagena, Colombia, and Zürich, Switzerland.

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Neurology Clinic, Department of Epileptology and EEG, University Hospital, Zürich, Switzerland.


The organization, financing, productivity, quality of work, and cost-effectiveness of the Epilepsy Center in Cartagena, Colombia, were studied and compared with the epilepsy surgery program at the University Hospital Zürich, Switzerland. During a 2-month visit, one of the authors (I.T.) evaluated the center in Cartagena as a welfare institution and evaluated its epilepsy surgery program. The postoperative results of the Cartagena program were compared with those reported at the Second International Palm Desert Conference 1992, which revealed a similar rate of postoperative seizure control in temporal lobe epilepsy, slightly inferior results with hemispherectomy, and slightly better results with anterior callosotomy. A comparison between the two epilepsy centers showed that pre and postoperative antiepileptic drug treatment is more restricted in Colombia because of high costs. Although important diagnostic tools such as electroencephalography, seizure monitoring, neuropsychology, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging are available in both centers, the Zürich program also has access to positron emission tomography, single photon emission computed tomography, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and intracarotid and selective amobarbital tests. The postoperative seizure outcome is similar in surgical temporal lobe epilepsy patients (temporal lobectomy series, Cartagena; selective amygdalohippocampectomy series, Zürich). The comparison of direct costs of epilepsy surgery in Cartagena and Zürich showed that for the average patient undergoing epilepsy surgery in Cartagena, the cost is 5.5% of that in Zürich. This study presents evidence that epilepsy surgery is an inexpensive and efficient treatment option for epilepsy patients in developing countries. Epilepsy surgery in developing countries may even be considered at an early stage in patients who cannot afford the costs of lifetime medical treatment but can afford the one-time cost of a surgical treatment.

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