Surgery may be better than drugs in epilepsy
Surgery is more effective than drugs for treating epilepsy and should no longer be considered the treatment of last resort, according to the first clinical trial to compare the two approaches published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine (2001;345:315-8). Sixty four per cent of the patients who underwent the surgery were free of disabling seizures for the year after surgery, compared with only 8% of those receiving drug treatment. In addition, they were better able to participate in social activities, hold jobs, and lead satisfying lives.
However, four of the patients who had surgery had adverse effects. One developed a sensory abnormality in the thigh, one had an infection at the surgical site, and two had slight impairments of memory. One patient in the group receiving drugs died of unexplained causes.
Surgery for epilepsy has been around since the 1930s, long before clinical trials became the most important