Functional hemispherectomy for catastrophic epilepsy in very young infants: technical considerations and complication avoidance

Christian Dorfer, Ayako Ochi, O. Carter Snead, Elizabeth Donner, Stephanie Holowka, Elysa Widjaja, James T. Rutka*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose: We report on our experience in performing peri-insular functional hemispherectomy (PIH) in very young infants with catastrophic epilepsy. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the medical charts of all infants with catastrophic epilepsy that underwent PIH under the age of 4 months at our institution. Results: Four infants (three female, one male) were included (median age at time of surgery 2.9 months, range from 2.4 to 4.2 months; median patient’s weight at time of surgery 5650 g, range from 4300 to 7500 g). None of the patients experienced hemodynamic instability during surgery. All four patients were given red blood cell replacement (median 435 ml, range from 230 to 800 ml), three of the four patients experienced coagulopathy during surgery and were given platelet cells transfusion in one (50 ml) and fresh frozen plasma in two patients (191 and 320 ml). Two patients experienced severe complications that, however, did not cause a permanent morbidity due to prompt diagnosis and correct management. After a median follow-up time of 4.3 years (range from 1.3 to 7.9 years), three of four patients are completely seizure free. The remaining patient is experiencing brief daily staring episodes. All of them have a hemiparesis but are fully ambulatory and have a useful upper limb function. Conclusion: In catastrophic epilepsy, PIH within the first months of life is feasible provided that an experienced multidisciplinary team is involved. Awareness of surgical challenges and potential complications is indispensible when the life-threatening nature of the epilepsy compels neurosurgeons to operate at this very young age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2103-2109
Number of pages7
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Catastrophic epilepsy
  • Early-onset epilepsy
  • Functional hemispherectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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