Before seizure surgery, children with epilepsy stay in an epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) and undergo a series of clinical tests to help find the specific area of the brain where seizures begin – the area that needs to be removed during surgery. After the surgery is performed, many children become seizure free. Does this have an impact on a child’s intelligence and overall quality of life? Do children who still experience repeated seizures have more brain changes and co-existing conditions?

Dr. Elysa Widjaja and her team at the Hospital for Sick Children are working to find out the effects of repeated seizures on children with focal, drug-resistant epilepsy. To do so, they are using advanced brain imaging (3T MRI) and performing neuropsychology tests – including tests that measure intelligence, language, thought processes, memory and physical movements – in children who are being assessed for brain surgery in the EMU. This information is taken as the before treatment measures.

Some children will be eligible for surgery based on where their seizures start and other factors, while some children will be maintained on their current treatments. Dr. Widjaja and her team will be looking at each of these groups two years later and repeating the MRI scans and quality of life measures to track their progress after treatment. They are currently enrolling children into this study, with the hope of better understanding the need for surgery and the effects on children’s brains, treatment outcomes and overall quality of life.

By conducting this study, Dr. Widjaja and her team have also found a need to inform parents about what procedures and tests their children will be going through in the EMU and during surgery. Based on this need, they have developed a plain language booklet for parents that will be available online in the upcoming months.

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