Object: Although it is known that 5 to 10% of patients have language areas anterior to the rolandic cortex, many surgeons still perform standard anterior temporal lobectomies for epilepsy of mesial onset and report minimal long-term dysphasia. The authors examined the importance of language mapping before anterior temporal lobectomy.
Methods: The authors mapped naming, reading, and speech arrest in a series of 67 patients via stimulation of long-term implanted subdural grids before resective epilepsy surgery and correlated the presence of language areas in the anterior temporal lobe with preoperative demographic and neuropsychometric data. Naming (p < 0.03) and reading (p < 0.05) errors were more common than speech arrest in patients undergoing surgery in the anterior temporal lobe. In the approximate region of a standard anterior temporal lobectomy, including 2.5 cm of the superior temporal gyrus and 4.5 cm of both the middle and inferior temporal gyrus, the authors identified language areas in 14.5% of patients tested. Between 1.5 and 3.5 cm from the temporal tip, patients who had seizure onset before 6 years of age had more naming (p < 0.02) and reading (p < 0.01) areas than those in whom seizure onset occurred after age 6 years. Patients with a verbal intelligence quotient (IQ) lower than 90 had more naming (p < 0.05) and reading (p < 0.02) areas than those with an IQ higher than 90. Finally, patients who were either left handed or right hemisphere memory dominant had more naming (p < 0.05) and reading (p < 0.02) areas than right-handed patients with bilateral or left hemisphere memory lateralization. Postoperative neuropsychometric testing showed a trend toward a greater decline in naming ability in patients who were least likely to have anterior language areas, that is, those with higher verbal IQ and later seizure onset.
Conclusions: Preoperative identification of markers of left hemisphere damage, such as early seizure onset, poor verbal IQ, left handedness, and right hemisphere memory dominance should alert neurosurgeons to the possibility of encountering essential language areas in the anterior temporal lobe (1.5-3.5 cm from the temporal tip). Naming and reading tasks are required to identify these areas. Whether removal of these areas necessarily induces long-term impairment in verbal abilities is unknown; however, in patients with a low verbal IQ and early seizure onset, these areas appear to be less critical for language processing.