Surgery Removes Half of Child’s Brain

Though it may sound radical to remove half of the brain to reduce epileptic seizures, but doctors at the Cleveland Clinic have been doing it for years and now a new study shows it’s working.

It’s called a hemispherectomy, and after studying 186 patients, doctors found it has a profound ability to help patients with severe epilepsy walk and talk.

Dr. Ajay Gupta treats pediatric epilepsy cases at Cleveland Clinic, and explains the surgery is reserved for children who are affected by most extreme cases of epilepsy and medication no longer works.

Seventy-five percent of study participants were having daily seizures despite taking multiple medications. Results showed more than half were seizure free following surgery, and another 15 percent had their seizures reduced by 90 percent.

Dr. Gupta told WKYC in Cleveland, “We found that 80 percent of children learn to walk after surgery,” he said. “Seventy-five or 80 percent of children have no vision deficit. We found that 70 percent of children learn to speak at or close to their age.”

Researchers also found 83 percent walked independently, 70 percent had better language skills, and almost 60 percent were in mainstream schools with some assistance.

“Surgery not only makes them seizure-free, but having seizure-freedom helps them learn more, do more and gain a higher academic, social, as well as occupational potential,” Gupta said.

However, he adds over the long term learning to read seemed to be the most difficult task for the children. Post-op efforts may be geared to learning and reading.