It’s a jarring image — a young child undergoing a surgery that removes half of his brain. Advertising Policy Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy Yet it’s real. The epilepsy surgery is called a hemispherectomy, … Read More
“We found that 80 percent of children learn to walk after surgery,” says Dr. Gupta. “Seventy-five or 80 percent of children have no vision deficit. Seventy percent of children learn to speak at or close to their age.”
Before the surgery, about 75 percent had daily seizures despite taking multiple anti-epileptic medications. Only a small fraction of the 3 million Americans with epilepsy are eligible for hemispherectomy — it’s typically used only when anti-seizure medications fail.
After surgery, the results were dramatic:
More than half the children were seizure-free
Another 15 percent saw their seizures reduced by 90 percent
83 percent walked independently
70 percent had better language skills
Nearly 60 percent were in mainstream schools (with some assistance)
Reading a challenge after surgery
“Surgery not only makes them seizure-free,” says Dr. Gupta, “but having seizure-freedom helps them learn more, do more and gain a higher academic, social as well as occupational potential.”
Over the long term, learning to read seems the most difficult and challenging task for the children, says Dr. Gupta. He says post-op efforts may be geared toward reading and learning.
Help in making a tough decision about surgery
These findings may help parents in making a very difficult decision about their children undergoing this surgery.
“Epilepsy surgery is a very important treatment for selected children who don’t respond to medical therapy,” says Dr. Gupta. “What we’ve shown is that even though hemispherectomy sounds very radical, the benefits far outweigh the risks.”