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Arch Neurol. 2002 Dec;59(12):1895-901.

Risk to verbal memory following anterior temporal lobectomy in patients with severe left-sided hippocampal sclerosis.

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Department of Neurology, UAB Epilepsy Center, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.



Previous investigations indicate low risk for memory loss following anterior temporal lobectomy (ATL) in patients with severe hippocampal sclerosis (HS) compared with patients with mild HS. However, these conclusions have been established primarily with group-level analyses.


To investigate individual base rate risk for verbal memory loss following ATL in patients who have pathologically verified mild, moderate, or severe HS.


One hundred fifteen patients with unilateral temporal lobe epilepsy (68 with left-sided and 47 with right-sided epilepsy) were included. Acquisition, retrieval, and recognition components of verbal memory, as measured by the California Verbal Learning Test, were assessed before and after ATL. Postoperatively, the degree of neuronal loss and reactive gliosis of the hippocampus was assessed via a 3-tiered rating system establishing mild, moderate, and severe pathologic features. Patients with preoperative magnetic resonance imaging-based evidence of lesions outside the mesial temporal area (side of surgical resection) were excluded.


Neither seizure laterality nor severity of HS was associated with preoperative verbal memory performance. Postoperatively, the left-sided ATL group demonstrated significant decline across the acquisition (P<.01), retrival (P<.001), and recognition (P<.001) verbal memory components compared with the right-sided ATL group. Patients who underwent left-sided ATL and had mild HS displayed the largest magnitude and percentage proportion of postoperative decline across all verbal memory components. However, 28 (48%) of the 58 patients who underwent left-sided ATL and who had moderate and severe HS displayed statistically reliable declines on retrieval aspects of verbal memory. Most patients undergoing right-sided ATL, regardless of the extent of hippocampal pathologic features, displayed no postoperative memory change.


Substantial individual heterogeneity of memory outcome exists across groups of patients undergoing ATL, with various degrees of pathologically verified HS. Patients undergoing left-sided ATL who have mild HS seem at greatest risk for broad-spectrum verbal memory decline. However, when examining outcome on a patient-by-patient basis, many patients undergoing left-sided ATL who have moderate to severe HS were also vulnerable to verbal memory loss. This risk seems selective to a retrieval-based aspect of verbal memory.

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