Is it necessary to define the ictal onset zone with EEG prior to performing resective epilepsy surgery?

Epilepsy Behav. 2011 Feb;20(2):178-81. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2010.08.024.


When evaluating candidates for neurosurgical treatment for medically intractable epilepsy, is it always necessary to define the region of seizure onset with EEG? A simple answer to this question is not possible. There are specific situations where surgery is commonly performed without clear EEG ictal localization, and other situations where electrical localization is mandatory. However, opinions differ in many other situations. What are the core issues for determining when EEG localization is necessary? Neuroimaging is imperfect. It does not always accurately identify the site of seizure origination, because seizures do not always arise from visible structural lesions. EEG localization is also imperfect, as well as expensive and time consuming. Sometimes the site of origin is not identified, or a region of spread is misidentified as site of origin. False localization and lateralization can occur. Finally, epilepsy surgery is imperfect. It can produce life-changing results, but it carries risk, and surgical failure is not rare. The limitations of these methods, and the high stakes of epilepsy surgery imply that we should be very cautious to omit EEG studies. The desire to improve access to epilepsy surgery, and to minimize the expense and risk from inpatient EEG studies, must be weighed against the possibility of an ineffective resection. To improve outcomes, improvements in both neuroimaging and EEG techniques are needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / surgery
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neurosurgery / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors