Epilepsy Surgery

Surgery is a safe, proven method for controlling or stopping seizures. It can improve a patient’s quality of life and prevent further damage to the brain. If your child with epilepsy has failed at least two anti-epileptic medications, or if your infant has a brain lesion and has failed one medication, they should be evaluated as soon as possible for epilepsy surgery.

At CHOC Children’s, we consider epilepsy surgery as early as possible in the treatment process. We approach surgery as a team, drawing expertise and input from our board-certified epileptologists and neurosurgeons, as well as our patients and their families.

For each child, we make custom recommendations based on advanced testing, medical history and a family’s preferences. We perform many types of epilepsy surgery, and have the ability to perform two-stage procedures. We can also treat patients who have had unsuccessful epilepsy surgery elsewhere.

Watch this video to learn about the process your family would go through if your child has epilepsy surgery at CHOC.

Pre-Surgery Testing and Evaluation

A comprehensive evaluation will help determine if surgery is appropriate for your child, as well as the best surgical option for them. Your child’s neurologist may order the following tests and procedures prior to surgery:

In some cases, we may perform intracranial monitoring prior to surgical resection. This involves surgically implanting electrodes on or inside the brain, to gather information about a child’s seizures and map the areas and functions of their brain. These electrodes are then removed. Learn more about intracranial monitoring.

Using the valuable information gathered from these tests, our pediatric epileptologists and neurosurgeons work to determine the location in the brain where seizures start, and how they spread through the brain, which allows us to make an individualized surgery plan for each child.

Types of Epilepsy Surgery

We perform several types of epilepsy surgery, depending on the location of the seizures and their extent.

Common surgical procedures include:

Another procedure used to treat seizures is the implantation of a vagus nerve stimulator, a small coil wrapped around the vagus nerve that sends impulses to the brain. Learn more about having a vagus nerve stimulator.

The Journey to Becoming 'Seizure-Free'

Kara's Story
Kara was having up to four seizures a day, which was taking a toll on her brain. After having surgery at CHOC’s Level 4 pediatric epilepsy center, she now lives seizure-free.


Ian's Story
Ian’s parents were surprised to learn that his sleepwalking was actually a sign of seizures. After having surgery at CHOC’s Level 4 pediatric epilepsy center, he now lives seizure-free.


Mareena's Story
For years, Mareena’s family went from doctor to doctor, trying to get control of her seizures. After having surgery at CHOC’s Level 4 pediatric epilepsy center, she now lives seizure-free.


Epilepsy Surgery: Myth vs. Fact

Evidence shows that more than 70 percent of patients with seizures may benefit from surgical intervention. Yet only a handful of these patients will end up having surgery because the procedure is feared, misunderstood or put off as a last resort. In reality, surgery is often more effective than any other treatment. At CHOC Children’s, we view surgery as an early treatment option for controlling seizures and will do our best to calm any fears your family may have.

Fact: Allowing seizures to continue uncontrolled is much riskier than having surgery. The longer a child experiences seizures, the more likely they are to have long-term damage to the brain, including learning disabilities, developmental delays and increased seizures. That’s why early, aggressive treatment of epilepsy is critical in order to prevent the severe consequences of epilepsy on the developing brain.
Fact: Children are very resilient, and their brains are no different. The plasticity of a young brain allows it to adapt to changes and heal more easily than an adult brain. Most children recover quickly. The consequences of surgery are generally minimal, with no new neurological problems, improved seizure control and improved quality of life and development.
Fact: Most patients come out of surgery looking and acting the same way they did when they went into surgery, minus the seizures. The side effects are very minimal, with no effects on a child’s development or personality. In fact, the part of the brain being operated on is often improved after the seizures are stopped.
Fact: Many people worry brain surgery will result in some kind of impairment. While it’s natural to be concerned about the risks involved with a major procedure, serious complications are very rare. Your child’s epileptologist and neurosurgeon will explain the risks and reassure you about the safety of the procedure.

Having Surgery at CHOC

When a child needs a surgery, that child’s needs are very different than those of an adult patient needing the same or similar procedure. Everything at CHOC Children’s is tailored to kids, including our pediatric-trained staff, customized equipment and special guidelines including anesthesia and pain management. We also have child life specialists at the bedside, to reduce a child’s anxiety and help them understand the hospital and what’s happening. They also provide distractions and pain management techniques.

Lobby of the Tidwell Surgery Center

Long Live Childhood

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