Pediatric Epilepsy Surgery

Epilepsy surgery is often considered when seizures do not respond to medication. In general, children with epilepsy who have not responded well to 2 trials of appropriately selected anti-seizure medication should be considered for possible epilepsy surgery.

Epilepsy surgery encompasses a wide variety of treatments performed by neurosurgeons to eliminate the source of seizures, prevent the spread of seizures, stimulate the brain to stop seizures, or otherwise change seizure circuits. The goal of surgery is to eliminate seizures or reduce the number and severity of seizures.

Surgery is an important treatment option to consider for all types of seizures, including focal, generalized, multifocal, drop attacks (atonic seizures), and gelastic seizures. 

At the Neuroscience Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), we understand that the decision to proceed with epilepsy surgery can be a difficult one for families. But for some patients, epilepsy surgery is a wonderful option.

Depending on the type of epilepsy a child has, many children can be cured of their epilepsy with surgery, and some no longer require anti-seizure medication. Others have significant reduction in seizure frequency and severity.

Pre-surgery evaluation

We utilize a team approach to identify the best management options for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. The evaluation of any child for epilepsy surgery will include input from specialists in epilepsy, electroencephalogram (EEG), neuroradiology, psychology, neuropsychology, neurogenetics, neurosurgery and anesthesiology — and, of course, ongoing input from patients and families.

The initial evaluation for epilepsy surgery typically includes:

  • A detailed history of the nature of the seizures
  • A neurological exam to look for clues about where seizures may begin
  • A brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • A brain magnetoencephalogram (MEG) scan
  • Video recording of some seizures in the epilepsy monitoring unit
  • Psychological and social assessments,
  • Neuropsychological testing

We also perform positron emission tomography (PET), functional MRI (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Once these tests are completed, your child's neurologist will meet with you and your child. You'll also meet with our neurosurgeon to further discuss the options for epilepsy surgery. Your neurologist and neurosurgeon will work closely together, and with your family, to determine a treatment plan that will deliver the best chance of improving your child's symptoms and reducing seizures.

If your child is not already under the care of a CHOP neurologist, and you would like to explore the possibility of epilepsy surgery, please contact the Pediatric Epilepsy Program for a second opinion consultation.

Our experience with epilepsy surgery

The Pediatric Epilepsy Program team within our Neuroscience Center is experienced in performing epilepsy surgery in children of all ages and with all types of epilepsy. Ours is one of the highest volume epilepsy surgery centers in the country.

We offer the most advanced surgical techniques available in the treatment of children with epilepsy. Our highly skilled pediatric neurosurgical teams has expertise in the full array of procedures used to treat seizures. Using all of the information gathered during your child’s evaluation, we plan the most appropriate interventions, such as resection, disconnection, laser ablation, or placement of responsive neurostimulator electrodes.

Surgical procedures for pediatric epilepsy

Procedures include:

We strive to use the least invasive procedures available, which offer many benefits to patients, such as less post-operative pain, decreased length of stay, lower risk of infection and improved outcomes.

By making epilepsy surgery safer and easier to tolerate, these treatment options become available to more children.

CHOP's dedicated pediatric anesthesiologists have specialized training in managing pain in children, and are prepared to keep your child comfortable and safe before, during and after surgery. Children have different needs than adults when it comes to anesthesia, and our team has both the technical skills needed to care for the smallest patients, as well special knowledge of the effects and dosages of medications for children of all ages.

Who choose us for pediatric epilepsy surgery?

The Pediatric Epilepsy Program within the CHOP Neuroscience Center is one of the largest programs of its kind in the world. As an accredited level 4 epilepsy center, CHOP is recognized by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers as having the expertise and facilities to provide the highest-level medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for children with epilepsy. Our interdisciplinary team of pediatric epilepsy specialists partners with physicians around the world to provide exceptional care for children with epilepsy. From initial diagnosis and testing to the most complex and technologically advanced epilepsy surgery, we use a multidisciplinary approach and state-of-the-art technology to provide individually tailored epilepsy treatment options for children suffering from seizures.

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