Assessing risk: Characterizing language performance in pediatric patients with intractable epilepsy pre- and post-surgical resection

Epilepsy Behav. 2021 Feb;115:107603. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2020.107603. Epub 2020 Dec 14.


Neuropsychologists play an important role in assessing risk for post-surgical cognitive decline in pediatric patients with medically refractory epilepsy. Families, neurologists, and neurosurgeons are particularly concerned about the possibility for language decline for patients with a dominant, most often left, hemisphere epileptic focus and planned surgical resection. This study aims to describe language functioning in pediatric epilepsy patients following resection and evaluate the accuracy of a clinical approach of assessing risk. This study proposes a risk assessment method that considers a patient's pattern of lateralized dysfunction across cognitive domains, suspected neuroanatomical reorganization of language functions, and planned site of resection. Pediatric patients (N = 47) were dichotomized as being at minimal risk or at greater risk for post-surgical language decline based on the proposed risk assessment method. Retrospective chart review was utilized to obtain neuropsychological (Boston Naming Test and Weschler Vocabulary subtest) and clinical variables of interest. Patients in the minimal risk group demonstrated significantly improved BNT scores at post-surgery. Most patients remained stable in their Vocabulary knowledge. The proposed risk assessment method correctly classified patients 77% of the time based on BNT performance. Cluster analysis examining the individual components of the proposed method revealed three distinct patient subgroups. Clinical implications are discussed.

Keywords: Epilepsy surgery; Language; Naming; Neuropsychology; Pediatric; Vocabulary.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy* / diagnosis
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy* / surgery
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Retrospective Studies