by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Surgery may help when:

  • Seizures are in just one part of the brain or start in one part before spreading to the rest of the brain
  • Medicines do not help or they cause other problems
  • It removes a cause of the seizures, such as a brain tumor or too much fluid on the brain

Things to talk to the doctor about before surgery are:

  • How often a person has seizures and how bad they are
  • The part of the brain that has seizures and how much it impacts everyday life

The main types are:

Lobectomy or Lesionectomy

This removes the part of the brain that makes the seizures. It is only done on people who have seizures that happen in one part of the brain. It often helps a person have fewer seizures. It is very useful in people with some kinds of temporal lobe epilepsy.

For some lesions, interstitial laser ablation may be done. A tube is surgically placed and then a laser destroys the lesion that causes the seizure.

Multiple Subpial Transection

This involves a series of cuts along the nerve path that the seizure impulses use to spread. It can prevent seizures from spreading to other parts of the brain. It leaves a person's normal abilities in place. It may be done alone or with a lobectomy. Alone, it is done in people whose seizures happen in a part of the brain that cannot be removed. This is done less often than a lobectomy.

Corpus Callosotomy

This surgery cuts the nerve between the right and left hemispheres of the brain to prevent seizures from spreading from one side to the other. It is often done in two steps. The first surgery partly separates the two halves, but it leaves some connections in place. If the seizures stop, the second surgery is not needed. If seizures keep occurring, a full separation may be done.

Corpus callosotomy is mostly done in children with severe seizures that start in one hemisphere of the brain and spread to the other. It can help prevent generalized seizures. The surgery does not prevent them in the side of the brain where they start.


This surgery removes half of the brain's outer layer. It is often done in children whose epilepsy is not being helped by medicine and who have one of these health problems:

  • Rasmussen encephalitis
  • Other severe damage to one brain hemisphere

Children will need help relearning basic tasks. After having this surgery, children often:

  • Have fewer or no seizures
  • Often heal well and can do normal tasks, but may have:
    • Weakness and loss of some movement on one side of the body
    • Loss of side vision

About half of children who have this surgery need to keep taking medicine. Some can slowly stop taking it if they do not have seizures for 12 months.

The chance of recovery is best in young children. That is why it is done early in a child’s life. It is almost never done in children over age 13.

Surgical Implants

There are two devices that are surgically placed under the skin. They help manage seizures in people whose symptoms are not helped by medicine.

  • Vagus nerve stimulator—gives short bursts of electricity to the brain through the vagus nerve in the neck
  • Responsive neurostimulator—notices electrical activity in the brain and gives electrical stimulation before seizure signs start


Bandt S.K., Leuthardt E.C. Minimally invasive neurosurgery for epilepsy using stereotactic MRI guidance. Neurosurg Clin N Am., 2016; 27(1): 51-58.

Epilepsy in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed April 8, 2022.

Epilepsy in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed April 8, 2022.

Epilepsy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Accessed April 8, 2022.

Riestenberg R.A., Sherman A.E., et al. Patient-specific characteristics associated with favorable response to vagus nerve stimulation. World Neurosurgery. 2022; S1878-8750 (22) 00202-9.

Treating seizures and epilepsy. Epilepsy Foundation website. Available at: Accessed April 8, 2022.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2022
  • Update Date: 04/11/2019