Seizure recurrence after planned discontinuation of antiepileptic drugs in seizure-free patients after epilepsy surgery: a review of current clinical experience

Epilepsia. 2004 Feb;45(2):179-86. doi: 10.1111/j.0013-9580.2004.37803.x.


Purpose: Although epilepsy surgery, especially temporal lobe epilepsy surgery, is well established to control seizures in patients remaining on antiepileptic drug (AED) treatment, less information is available about how many seizure-free surgical patients will relapse after discontinuation of AEDs under medical supervision.

Methods: A literature review yielded six retrospective clinical observations.

Results: After planned discontinuation of AEDs in patients rendered seizure free after epilepsy surgery, most often various forms of temporal lobe surgery, the mean percentage recurrence rate in adults in four studies was 33.8%[95% confidence interval (CI), 32.4-35.2%], with maximum follow-up ranging from 1 to 5 years. Seizure recurrence increased during the follow-up of 1 to 3 years and occurred within 3 years of AED discontinuation. In one study of children with temporal lobe epilepsy, the recurrence rate was 20%. More than 90% of adult patients with seizure recurrence regained seizure control with reinstitution of previous AED therapy. Seizure recurrence was unaffected by the duration of postoperative AED treatment; as a consequence, delaying discontinuation beyond 1 to 2 years of complete postoperative seizure control seems to have no added benefit. The occurrence of rare seizures or auras after surgery did not eliminate the possibility of eventual successful AED discontinuation.

Conclusions: AED discontinuation is associated with a seizure recurrence in one in three patients rendered seizure free by epilepsy surgery. These results will be useful in counseling patients about discontinuing AED treatment after successful epilepsy surgery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy*
  • Epilepsy / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Recurrence


  • Anticonvulsants