Brain surgery to treat epilepsy can provide relief from seizures for up to 30 years, a new study suggests.

"Few studies have looked at the long-term prognosis for epilepsy surgery," says researcher William H. Theodore, MD, of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in a news release. "We found that 50 percent of the patients were free of seizures 30 years after the surgery."

The results of the study appear in the June 14 issue ofNeurology.

Read WebMD's "How is Epilepsy Treated?"

Effects of Epilepsy Surgery Last

Epilepsy surgery is reserved as a treatment option for people whose seizures do not respond to medication. The procedure, known as a temporal lobectomy, involves surgically removing the part of the brain where seizures most often occur.

The study involved 48 people who had epilepsy surgery at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., about 30 years ago. Researchers interviewed the patients and their families about whether they had seizures one, five, 10, and 30 years after the surgery.

The results showed that half of the people who received the surgery were free of seizures up to 30 years later. Fourteen were free of seizures without epilepsy drugs, and 10 were seizure free with epilepsy medication.

Researchers say patients who had seizures within the first year after surgery were least likely to be seizure free in the following years.

Ten patients died during the follow-up period. Seven died due to unrelated causes, and three died during a seizure.

Read WebMD's "What Is Epilepsy Surgery?"

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD

SOURCES: Kelley, K. Neurology, June 14, 2005; vol 64: pp 1974-1976. Press release, American Academy of Neurology.