Neurostimulation for the treatment of epilepsy: a review of current surgical interventions

Neuromodulation. Jan-Feb 2013;16(1):10-24; discussion 24. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1403.2012.00501.x. Epub 2012 Sep 4.


Objectives: Epilepsy continues to provide challenges to clinicians, as a significant proportion of patients continue to suffer from seizures despite medical and surgical treatments. Neurostimulation has emerged as a new treatment modality that has the potential to improve quality of life and occasionally be curative for patients with medically refractory epilepsy who are not surgical candidates. In order to continue to advance the frontier of this field, it is imperative to have a firm grasp of the current body of knowledge.

Methods: We performed a thorough review of the current literature regarding the three main modalities of vagus nerve stimulation, deep brain stimulation, and closed-loop stimulation (responsive neurostimulator [RNS]) for the treatment of refractory epilepsy. For each of these forms of treatment, we discuss the current understanding of the underlying mechanism of action, patient selection, outcomes to date, and associated side effects or adverse reactions. We also provide an overview of related ongoing clinical trials.

Results: A total of 189 sources from 1938 to 2012 pertaining to neuromodulation for the treatment of epilepsy were reviewed. Sources included review articles, clinical trials, case reports, conference proceedings, animal studies, and government data bases.

Conclusions: This review shows us how neurostimulation provides us with yet another tool with which to treat the complex disease of medically refractory epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Epilepsy / therapy*
  • Humans