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Lancet Neurol. 2002 Oct;1(6):375-82.

When should temporal-lobe epilepsy be treated surgically?

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Department of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520-8018, USA.


Our current knowledge of mesial-temporal-lobe epilepsy (MTLE) is extensive, yet still insufficient to draw final conclusions on the optimal approach to its therapy. MTLE has been well characterised and can usually be identified with noninvasive studies including scalp electroencephalography (EEG) and video monitoring with ictal recording, magnetic resonance imaging, single-photon-emission computed tomography, positron emission tomography, neuropsychological assessment, and historical and clinical data. Sometimes, invasive EEG is needed to confirm mesial-temporal-lobe seizure onset, which, combined with the underlying pathological abnormality (the substrate) of mesial temporal sclerosis (hippocampal neuronal loss and gliosis), defines MTLE. This disorder is the most common refractory partial epilepsy, and also the one most often treated surgically, because medical treatment fails in 75% of cases, and surgical treatment succeeds in a similar percentage. Despite the recent publication of the first randomised trial of surgical treatment for MTLE, questions remain about the neurological consequences of both medical and surgical treatment, the ultimate gains in quality of life parameters, and the precise predictors of success. Long-term follow-up and analyses of multiple factors in large groups of contemporary patient populations will be necessary to fully answer the question, "is temporal lobe epilepsy a surgical disease?" Right now it should be considered one in most cases.

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