November 22, 2022

Unexpected Declines in Cognitive Performance After Epilepsy Surgery

Article published by News Medical

In severe epilepsies, surgical intervention is often the only remedy – usually with great success. While neuropsychological performance can recover in the long term after successful surgery, on rare occasions, unexpected declines in cognitive performance occur. Researchers at the University of Bonn have now been able to show which patients are at particularly high risk for this. Their findings have been published in the journal “Annals of Neurology.” They may help identify affected individuals for whom surgery should be avoided. Instead, new treatment prospects are emerging for these patients.

The researchers were helped by the University Hospital Bonn’s extensive experience in epilepsy surgery: They were able to draw on brain tissue samples that had in some cases been taken decades ago. “We analyzed a total of 24 samples from men and women who had been diagnosed with serious cognitive decline months or even years after surgery,” Reimers explains.

In the course of this, the researchers came across a striking finding: In those affected, the removed tissue was damaged by secondary disease at the time of surgery – either through inflammation or incipient Alzheimer’s dementia-like. “With these pre-existing conditions, the body’s defenses are particularly active,” says Becker, who is also a member of the Transdisciplinary Research Area (TRA) “Life and Health.” “It’s possible that the trauma of the surgical procedure further stimulates the immune system in the brain to attack healthy brain tissue.”