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Neurologist. 2012 Sep;18(5):329-31. doi: 10.1097/NRL.0b013e31826ac675.

Determination of hemispheric language dominance in the surgical epilepsy patient: diagnostic properties of functional magnetic resonance imaging.

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Department of Neurology, Division of Education Administration, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ, USA.



Presurgical evaluation for refractory epilepsy typically includes assessment of cognitive and language functions. The reference standard for determination of hemispheric language dominance has been the intracarotid amobarbital test (IAT) but functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is increasingly used.


To critically assess current evidence regarding the diagnostic properties of fMRI in comparison with the IAT for determination of hemispheric language dominance.


The objective was addressed through the development of a structured critically appraised topic. This included a clinical scenario, structured question, literature search strategy, critical appraisal, results, evidence summary, commentary, and bottom-line conclusions. Participants included consultant and resident neurologists, a medical librarian, clinical epidemiologists, and content experts in the fields of epilepsy and neurosurgery.


A systematic review and meta-analysis that compared the sensitivity and specificity of fMRI to IAT-determined language lateralization was selected for critical appraisal. The review included data from 23 articles (n=442); study methodology varied widely. fMRI was 83.5% sensitive and 88.1% specific for detection of hemispheric language dominance.


There are insufficient data to support routine use of fMRI for the purpose of determining hemispheric language dominance in patients with intractable epilepsy. Larger, well-designed studies of fMRI for language and other cognitive outcomes as part of the presurgical and postsurgical evaluation of epilepsy patients are necessary.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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