Characterization of postsurgical functional connectivity changes in temporal lobe epilepsy

J Neurosurg. 2019 Jun 14;1-11. doi: 10.3171/2019.3.JNS19350. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Seizure outcome after mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (mTLE) surgery is complex and diverse, even across patients with homogeneous presurgical clinical profiles. The authors hypothesized that this is due in part to variations in network connectivity across the brain before and after surgery. Although presurgical network connectivity has been previously characterized in these patients, the objective of this study was to characterize presurgical to postsurgical functional network connectivity changes across the brain after mTLE surgery.

Methods: Twenty patients with drug-refractory unilateral mTLE (5 left side, 10 female, age 39.3 ± 13.5 years) who underwent either selective amygdalohippocampectomy (n = 13) or temporal lobectomy (n = 7) were included in the study. Presurgical and postsurgical (36.6 ± 14.3 months after surgery) functional connectivity (FC) was measured with 3-T MRI and compared with findings in age-matched healthy controls (n = 44, 21 female, age 39.3 ± 14.3 years). Postsurgical connectivity changes were then related to seizure outcome, type of surgery, and presurgical disease parameters.

Results: The results demonstrated significant decreases of FC from control group values across the brain after surgery that were not present before surgery, including many contralateral hippocampal connections distal to the surgical site. Postsurgical impairment of contralateral precuneus to ipsilateral occipital connectivity was associated with seizure recurrence. Presurgical impairment of the contralateral precuneus to contralateral temporal lobe connectivity was associated with those who underwent selective amygdalohippocampectomy compared to those who had temporal lobectomy. Finally, changes in thalamic connectivity after surgery were linearly related to duration of epilepsy and frequency of consciousness-impairing seizures prior to surgery.

Conclusions: The widespread contralateral hippocampal FC changes after surgery may be a reflection of an ongoing epileptogenic progression that has been altered by the surgery, rather than a direct result of the surgery itself. This network evolution may contribute to long-term seizure outcome. Therefore, the combination of presurgical network mapping with the understanding of the dynamic effects of surgery on the networks may ultimately be used to create predictors of the likelihood of long-term seizure recurrence in individual patients after mTLE surgery.

Keywords: FC = functional connectivity; MRI; connectivity; epilepsy surgery; fMRI = functional MRI; functional neuroimaging; functional neurosurgery; mTLE = mesial temporal lobe epilepsy; temporal lobe epilepsy.