January 28, 2019

Epileptologists and Patients Reluctant to Explore Epilepsy Surgery

Objective: Despite the obvious advantages of resective surgery in patients with drug-resistant focal epilepsy, namely high probability of seizure freedom, decreased mortality, and increased quality of life, referral rates from physicians and approval rates by patients for presurgical assessment remain constantly low.

Methods: In the outpatient clinics of a tertiary epilepsy center, checklists were implemented asking treating epileptologists whether they recommended presurgical evaluation with noninvasive video-electroencephalographic monitoring to adult patients with drug-resistant focal epilepsy and asking respective patients whether they followed this recommendation.

Results: Of 185 eligible patients, 80 (43%) were recommended presurgical evaluation by their epileptologists, and 24 (30%) of these patients consented. Nineteen of all patients (10%) actually underwent noninvasive presurgical assessment, and nine of these eventually proceeded to resection. The most frequent reason for nonreferral by epileptologists was their subjective appraisal of seizure frequency as low (31%), whereas patients declined most often due to overall fear of brain surgery (50%).

Variables independently associated with nonreferral by epileptologists comprised older age of patients at questioning (odds ratio [OR] = 1.03), no previous evaluation for epilepsy surgery (OR = 4.04), the presence of legal guardianship (OR = 4.29), and -11 years of professional experience by the treating epileptologist (OR = 4.62). Independent predictors for patients’ rejection of presurgical evaluation were older age at questioning (OR = 1.08), lifetime number of antiepileptic drugs greater than or equal to 5 (OR = 4.47), presence of focal aware seizures (OR = 4.37), and absence of focal seizures with impaired awareness (OR = 11.24).

Significance: In both epileptologists and patients with difficult-to-treat epilepsy, this study found high decision rates against presurgical assessment. Some reasons given by physicians for not recommending presurgical evaluation to patients may be understandable; others need further exploration. On the patients’ side, early and thorough counseling on risks and benefits of epilepsy surgery is necessary to increase understanding and acceptance.

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