Quality of life after epilepsy surgery: How domain-specific cognitive changes impact QOL within the context of seizure outcome

Published:October 22, 2022DOI:


      • Patients with epilepsy often experience improved QOL, regardless of cognitive decline, as long as they have positive seizure outcomes.
      • Risk of worsened QOL remains for patients who experience a “double hit”, particularly if they experience a decline in executive function.
      • Depression also plays a significant role in QOL outcomes and may be connected to changes in executive function.
      • Comprehensive pre-surgical neuropsychological evaluations remain important for counseling patients during the surgical process.



      Neurosurgery is an effective treatment option for pharmacoresistant epilepsy. Although post-surgical seizure freedom is considered the primary goal of epilepsy surgery, other factors that impact Quality of Life (QOL) are also important to consider, including post-surgical cognitive changes. This study aimed to examine the impact of post-surgical cognitive changes on QOL in the context of seizure outcomes.


      Participants were 196 adults with focal epilepsy who underwent either frontal (n = 27) or temporal (n = 169) lobe resection. Each participant completed pre- and post-surgical neuropsychological evaluations, and cognitive composites were constructed for the following domains: language, attention/processing speed, memory, executive function, and visuospatial skill. The Quality of Life in Epilepsy (QOLIE-10) questionnaire was used to assess QOL. Seizure outcome was determined by seizure status six months post-surgery.


      Eighty-one percent of patients were seizure-free post-surgery and generally reported improved QOL. While a significant portion of patient’s demonstrated declines in language and verbal memory following surgery, only a decline in verbal memory was associated with worse QOL; however, this relationship was no longer significant after controlling for seizure outcome. Instead, reduced post-surgical QOL was primarily observed in those who experienced both seizure recurrence and a decline in executive function. Notably, depression was a significant covariate in all of the models.


      The findings from this study improve our ability to counsel patients about the trade-off between cognitive decline and seizure remittance in the greater context of overall QOL. Reassuringly, it appears that QOL is improved regardless of cognitive changes when patients have good seizure outcomes. However, for those that experience a “double hit” (i.e., cognitive decline without seizure remission), post-surgical QOL may be reduced. Changes in depression also appear to play a crucial role in QOL outcomes.


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