The Multicenter Study of Epilepsy Surgery: Recruitment and Selection for Surgery

Anne T. Berg, Barbara G. Vickrey, John T. Langfitt, Michael R. Sperling, Thaddeus S. Walczak, Shlomo Shinnar, Carl W. Bazil, Steven V. Pacia, Susan S. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


Purpose: Multiple studies have examined predictors of seizure outcomes after epilepsy surgery. Most are single-center series with limited sample size. Little information is available about the selection process for surgery and, in particular, the proportion of patients who ultimately have surgery and the characteristics that identify those who do versus those who do not. Such information is necessary for providing the epidemiologic and clinical context in which epilepsy surgery is currently performed in the United States and in other developed countries. Methods: An observational cohort of 565 surgical candidates was prospectively recruited from June 1996 through January 2001 at six Northeastern and one Midwestern surgical centers. Standardized eligibility criteria and protocol for presurgical evaluations were used at all seven sites. Results: Three hundred ninety-six (70%) study subjects had resective surgery. Clinical factors such as a well-localized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) abnormality and consistently localized EEG findings were most strongly associated with having surgery. Of those who underwent intracranial monitoring (189, 34%), 85% went on to have surgery. Race/ethnicity and marital status were marginally associated with having surgery. Age, education, and employment status were not. Demographic factors had little influence over the surgical decision. More than half of the patients had intractable epilepsy for ≥10 years and five or more drugs had failed by the time they initiated their surgical evaluation. During the recruitment period, eight new antiepileptic drugs were approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States and came into increasing use in this study's surgical candidates. Despite the increased availability of new therapeutic options, the proportion that had surgery each year did not fluctuate significantly from year to year. This suggests that, in this group of patients, the new drugs did not provide a substantial therapeutic benefit. Conclusions: Up to 30% of patients who undergo presurgical evaluations for resective epilepsy surgery ultimately do not have this form of surgery. This is a group whose needs are not currently met by available therapies and procedures. Lack of clear localizing evidence appears to be the main reason for not having surgery. To the extent that these data can address the question, they suggest that repeated attempts to control intractable epilepsy with new drugs will not result in sustained seizure control, and eligible patients will proceed to surgery eventually. This is consistent with recent arguments to consider surgery earlier rather than later in the course of epilepsy. Postsurgical follow-up of this group will permit a detailed analysis of presurgical factors that predict the best and worst seizure outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1425-1433
Number of pages9
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Intractable epilepsy
  • Selection process
  • Surgery outcome


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