doctor and woman looking at brain scan

Epilepsy surgery is major neurosurgery. Some risk is associated with it and there is some mild discomfort afterward. The recovery period varies for each individual. The hospital stay also varies, depending on the specific procedure performed. Most people can resume normal activities 2 to 8 weeks after the operation.

What should a person and their family expect from epilepsy surgery?

It is critical for the patient and family to have realistic expectations of the results of the surgery. Here are a few things to consider.

  • After surgery, some patients become completely seizure-free and some have no improvement at all.
  • Many people fall between these extremes, having fewer seizures or seizures that are less intense. 
  • Some people may be able to lower or simplify their medicines if seizure control improves. People who become seizure free after surgery may be able to come off medications if they are seizure free for a number of years.  
  • After a person has been thoroughly evaluated for surgery, the likelihood of seizure freedom and potential risks can be explained to the patient and family more specifically. 

What else should a person with seizures and their family be aware of?

Strange as it may seem, becoming seizure-free after epilepsy surgery can be stressful and may require a major adjustment.

  • Seizure control may create greater pressure to be employed or to assume other responsibilities.
  • It also may change relationships and other people's expectations.
  • Some people feel depressed about these changes and they may need a great deal of support during the adjustment period.
  • One of the biggest stresses after epilepsy surgery is the occurrence of a seizure in someone who has been free of seizures for a while. The return of seizures can be psychologically devastating, but it does not mean that surgery has failed.
    • Often there may be other seizure triggers, such as missing a dose of medicine, a drop in drug levels, alcohol use, a serious illness or infection, or excessive sleep deprivation or stress. Addressing potential trigger(s) can help the person regain seizure control. 
    • Sometimes medication adjustments may be helpful in controlling seizures again. 
    • It's important not to give up if seizures recur. It does mean that people need to continue medications and pay attention to their lifestyle and other factors that can affect their risk for seizures.
Authored by: Howard L. Weiner, MD | Joseph I. Sirven, MD
Reviewed by: Joseph I. Sirven, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN on 8/2013
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