Little is known about the long-term cognitive outcomes following pediatric epilepsy surgery. Although the evidence for change within the first 2 years is not compelling, the plasticity of the immature brain may allow for improvements in the long term. This study examined memory function in a cohort of surgical and nonsurgical patients at baseline and 4–11 years after.
Participants were 88 patients (mean age 20.05, standard deviation [SD] 4.21 years) with childhood-onset intractable epilepsy; 53 had undergone resective epilepsy surgery. Verbal and visual memory were assessed at baseline and follow-up using standardized tests of recall of stories, faces, word pairs, and word lists.
Improvements over time were not found; outcomes were largely independent of surgical status. Those who were seizure-free at follow-up had better story recall at both times (p = 0.028), and did not show improvement. Among patients with extratemporal lobe epilepsy, significant declines in word list recall were found over time irrespective of surgical or seizure status (p = 0.010). Effects of laterality of seizure focus were evident only when examining patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE); patients with left TLE had lower story recall scores compared to patients with right TLE at long-term follow-up (p = 0.043).
Patients who became seizure-free had some advantages in memory, but did not show improvements over time. These findings have important implications for understanding potential outcomes from surgery or continued use of antiepileptic medications.