There are many differences between children and adult patients regarding the selection of candidates for epilepsy surgery, decision about the timing of surgery, pre- and intra-surgical evaluation and follow-up. A comprehensive approach by an epilepsy surgery team consisting of pediatric neurologists, neurosurgeons and other medical staffs is absolutely necessary for successful surgical treatment of refractory childhood epilepsy and the improvement of the patient's quality of life. The potential risks and benefits of the surgery must be carefully weighed for each child from various aspects. Pediatric neurologists should make a more active contribution to this whole process.
Twenty five percent of children with epilepsy continue to seize despite best medical management and may be defined as medically refractory. Many children with medically refractory localization- related epilepsy, i.e. seizures which originate in a particular area of brain and secondarily spread to involve other brain regions, may benefit from a variety of surgical treatments including hemispherectomy, corpus callosotomy, focal cortical resection of the temporal lobe, focal cortical resection of extratemporal regions of brain, and multiple subpial resections. A successful outcome from epilepsy surgery is generally defined as a seizure-free state with no imposition of neurologic deficit. In order to achieve these twin goals two criteria must be fulfilled. First, precise localization of the epileptogenic zone in the brain is necessary. The epileptogenic zone may be defined as the region of epileptogenic cerebral cortex whose removal will result in a seizurefree state. Second, one must determine the anatomic localization of eloquent cortex in brain in order to spare these areas during any planned cortical excision of epileptogenic cortex. Several diagnostic measures may be used to achieve a successful surgical outcome. A clinical history to ascertain the earliest symptom in the clinical progression of the seizure (semiology) is imperative as is ictal and interictal scalp EEG, neuropsychological testing, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT), interictal magnetoencephalography (MEG). In the typical child undergoing evaluation for epilepsy surgery, if the clinical, neuropsychological, EEG, and radiological data are all concordant and point to the same area of epileptogenicity in brain, cortical excision of the suspected epileptogenic zone is undertaken. However, if the data are discordant, and/or the epileptogenic zone resides wholly or in part within eloquent cortex, invasive intracranial monitoring from depth and/or subdural electrodes during a seizure is required to map out the areas of epileptogenicity in brain. The assessment of potential risks and benefits for this type of epilepsy surgery in children involve complex age-related issues, including the possible impact of uncontrolled seizures, medication, or surgery, on learning and development.