Surgical Treatments for Epilepsies in Children Aged 1-36 Months: A Systematic Review

Neurology. 2023 Jan 3;100(1):e1-e15. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000201012. Epub 2022 Oct 21.


Background and objectives: Early life epilepsies (epilepsies in children 1-36 months old) are common and may be refractory to antiseizure medications. We summarize findings of a systematic review commissioned by the American Epilepsy Society to assess evidence and identify evidence gaps for surgical treatments for epilepsy in children aged 1-36 months without infantile spasms.

Methods: EMBASE, MEDLINE, PubMed, and the Cochrane Library were searched for studies published from 1/1/1999 to 8/19/21. We included studies reporting data on children aged 1 month to ≤36 months undergoing surgical interventions or neurostimulation for epilepsy and enrolling ≥10 patients per procedure. We excluded studies of infants with infantile spasms or status epilepticus. For effectiveness outcomes (seizure freedom, seizure frequency), studies were required to report follow-up at ≥ 12 weeks. For harm outcomes, no minimum follow-up was required. Outcomes for all epilepsy types, regardless of etiology, were reported together.

Results: Eighteen studies (in 19 articles) met the inclusion criteria. Sixteen prestudies/poststudies reported on efficacy, and 12 studies addressed harms. Surgeries were performed from 1979 to 2020. Seizure freedom for infants undergoing hemispherectomy/hemispherotomy ranged from 7% to 76% at 1 year after surgery. For nonhemispheric surgeries, seizure freedom ranged from 40% to 70%. For efficacy, we concluded low strength of evidence (SOE) suggests some infants achieve seizure freedom after epilepsy surgery. Over half of infants undergoing hemispherectomy/hemispherotomy achieved a favorable outcome (Engel I or II, International League Against Epilepsy I to IV, or >50% seizure reduction) at follow-up of >1 year, although studies had key limitations. Surgical mortality was rare for functional hemispherectomy/hemispherotomy and nonhemispheric resections. Low SOE suggests postoperative hydrocephalus is uncommon for infants undergoing nonhemispheric procedures for epilepsy.

Discussion: Although existing evidence remains sparse and low quality, some infants achieve seizure freedom after surgery and ≥50% achieve favorable outcomes. Future prospective studies in this age group are needed. In addition to seizure outcomes, studies should evaluate other important outcomes (developmental outcomes, quality of life [QOL], sleep, functional performance, and caregiver QOL).

Trial registration information: This systematic review was registered in PROSPERO (CRD42021220352) on March 5, 2021.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epilepsy* / etiology
  • Epilepsy* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Seizures / complications
  • Spasms, Infantile* / complications
  • Treatment Outcome