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The evolution of epilepsy surgery between 1991 and 2011 in nine major epilepsy centers across the United States, Germany, and Australia

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Epilepsy surgery is the most effective treatment for select patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. In this article, we aim to provide an accurate understanding of the current epidemiologic characteristics of this intervention, as this knowledge is critical for guiding educational, academic, and resource priorities.


We profile the practice of epilepsy surgery between 1991 and 2011 in nine major epilepsy surgery centers in the United States, Germany, and Australia. Clinical, imaging, surgical, and histopathologic data were derived from the surgical databases at various centers.


Although five of the centers performed their highest number of surgeries for mesial temporal sclerosis (MTS) in 1991, and three had their highest number of MTS surgeries in 2001, only one center achieved its peak number of MTS surgeries in 2011. The most productive year for MTS surgeries varied then by center; overall, the nine centers surveyed performed 48% (95% confidence interval [CI] -27.3% to -67.4%) fewer such surgeries in 2011 compared to either 1991 or 2001, whichever was higher. There was a parallel increase in the performance of surgery for nonlesional epilepsy. Further analysis of 5/9 centers showed a yearly increase of 0.6 ± 0.07% in the performance of invasive electroencephalography (EEG) without subsequent resections. Overall, although MTS was the main surgical substrate in 1991 and 2001 (proportion of total surgeries in study centers ranging from 33.3% to 70.2%); it occupied only 33.6% of all resections in 2011 in the context of an overall stable total surgical volume.


These findings highlight the major aspects of the evolution of epilepsy surgery across the past two decades in a sample of well-established epilepsy surgery centers, and the critical current challenges of this treatment option in addressing complex epilepsy cases requiring detailed evaluations. Possible causes and implications of these findings are discussed.

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