Evolution of cranial epilepsy surgery complication rates: a 32-year systematic review and meta-analysis

J Neurosurg. 2014 Jun;120(6):1415-27. doi: 10.3171/2014.1.JNS131694. Epub 2014 Feb 21.


Object: Surgical interventions for medically refractory epilepsy are effective in selected patients, but they are underutilized. There remains a lack of pooled data on complication rates and their changes over a period of multiple decades. The authors performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of reported complications from intracranial epilepsy surgery from 1980 to 2012.

Methods: A literature search was performed to find articles published between 1980 and 2012 that contained at least 2 patients. Patients were divided into 3 groups depending on the procedure they underwent: A) temporal lobectomy with or without amygdalohippocampectomy, B) extratemporal lobar or multilobar resections, or C) invasive electrode placement. Articles were divided into 2 time periods, 1980-1995 and 1996-2012.

Results: Sixty-one articles with a total of 5623 patients met the study's eligibility criteria. Based on the 2 time periods, neurological deficits decreased dramatically from 41.8% to 5.2% in Group A and from 30.2% to 19.5% in Group B. Persistent neurological deficits in these 2 groups decreased from 9.7% to 0.8% and from 9.0% to 3.2%, respectively. Wound infections/meningitis decreased from 2.5% to 1.1% in Group A and from 5.3% to 1.9% in Group B. Persistent neurological deficits were uncommon in Group C, although wound infections/meningitis and hemorrhage/hematoma increased over time from 2.3% to 4.3% and from 1.9% to 4.2%, respectively. These complication rates are additive in patients undergoing implantation followed by resection.

Conclusions: Complication rates have decreased dramatically over the last 30 years, particularly for temporal lobectomy, but they remain an unavoidable consequence of epilepsy surgery. Permanent neurological deficits are rare following epilepsy surgery compared with the long-term risks of intractable epilepsy.

Keywords: AED = antiepileptic drug; CVA = cerebral vascular accident; DVT = deep vein thrombosis; PE = pulmonary embolism; complication; epilepsy surgery; meta-analysis; morbidity; neurological deficits; review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anterior Temporal Lobectomy
  • Craniotomy*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Epilepsy / surgery*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurosurgical Procedures*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence