Impact of resective surgery for pediatric drug-resistant epilepsy on emotional functioning

Natalie L. Phillips, Elysa Widjaja, Mary Lou Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective of the study was to evaluate emotional functioning following surgical and medical treatment in children with drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE; i.e., uncontrolled seizures despite treatment with ≥ 2 antiepileptic drugs [AED]). Method: This prospective, longitudinal, multicenter study involved 128 children and adolescents (8–18 years) with DRE who were assessed for surgical candidacy; 48 went on to have surgery and 80 continued medical treatment. Participants completed child-validated self-report measures of anxiety and depression at baseline, 6, and 12 month follow-up. Standardized z-scores were calculated with higher scores indicative of greater symptoms. Results: At baseline, 16% and 22% of all patients reported elevated symptoms of depression and anxiety, respectively (i.e., z ≥ 1.00). Seizure freedom was higher in the surgical, compared with the medical, group at 6 (64 vs. 11%) and 12 month (77 vs. 24%) follow-up. Linear mixed effects models controlling for age found a main effect of time for both depression and anxiety; scores decreased over time for all patients. A main effect of seizure outcome was found for depression, but not anxiety; seizure freedom was associated with lower scores overall. There were no main effects of treatment or significant interactions. Multiple regression analyses found baseline mood predicted outcomes at 6 and 12 month follow-up; higher anxiety and depression scores at baseline were associated with higher scores at follow-up. Older age and greater number of AEDs at baseline was associated with higher depression scores at 12 month follow-up. Conclusion: Overall, patients reported a reduction in anxiety and depressive symptoms over the first 12 months, irrespective of treatment, and baseline level of functioning was the best predictor of outcome. Despite more children achieving seizure freedom with surgery compared with medical treatment, surgery was not associated with better outcomes over time. It may be that changes in anxiety and depression require a longer time to emerge postsurgery; however, being seizure-free is associated with fewer depressive symptoms, irrespective of treatment type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106508
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Outcome
  • Pediatric epilepsy
  • Resective surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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