Cerebral cavernous malformations and intractable epilepsy: the limited usefulness of current literature

Acta Neurochir (Wien). 2011 Feb;153(2):249-59. doi: 10.1007/s00701-010-0915-z. Epub 2010 Dec 29.


Background: Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCM) are known to be highly epileptogenic lesions. A number of studies on CCM surgery deal with CCM-associated seizures and/or epilepsy. In order to counsel patients with CCM-associated epilepsy, clear results from such studies would be highly useful. This study reviews the current literature with the aim to assess its usefulness for presurgical decision-making with emphasis on differentiating outcomes in different epilepsy types.

Methods: A systematic Medline search identified 27 studies between 1991 and 2009 through the keywords "cavernomas, cavernous, hemangioma, AND epilepsy, AND surgery". They were analysed with regard to clarity of definition of epilepsy subtypes, precision of definition of drug-resistant epilepsy, information on surgical procedure and presurgical workup, seizure outcome and length of follow-up.

Results: Twenty studies included only surgically treated patients. Three types of epilepsy were defined: drug-resistant epilepsy, epilepsy or single/sporadic seizures. In 12 of 27 studies, at least one of these categories remained unclear. The classic definition of drug-resistant epilepsy was not used in the vast majority of studies, with many groups using their own definition. In 30%, the surgical procedure was not described precisely, although 52% of studies used a differentiated preoperative evaluation. Seizure outcome was described using a widely accepted classification in only 48% of series, and in over half of the studies outcome results contained cases with insufficient length of follow-up.

Conclusions: A large proportion of recent studies on surgery for CCM-associated epilepsy are not using criteria and definitions for the classification of epilepsy and outcome that are commonly used by epileptologists or epilepsy surgeons. This results in the limited usefulness of a large part of the literature for the purpose of preoperative counselling a patient with CCM-associated epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Temporal Lobectomy / methods*
  • Brain Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Comorbidity
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous, Central Nervous System / epidemiology
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous, Central Nervous System / pathology
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous, Central Nervous System / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / standards
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology
  • Temporal Lobe / surgery*