Surgical treatment of drug-resistant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy

Lino Nobili, S. Francione, R. Mai, F. Cardinale, L. Castana, L. Tassi, I. Sartori, G. Didato, A. Citterio, N. Colombo, C. Galli, G. Lo Russo, M. Cossu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Of the cases with nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (NFLE) ∼30% are refractory to antiepileptic medication, with several patients suffering from the effects of both ongoing seizures and disrupted sleep. From a consecutive series of 522 patients operated on for drug-resistant focal epilepsy, 21 cases (4%), whose frontal lobe seizures occurred almost exclusively (>90%) during sleep, were selected. All patients underwent a comprehensive pre-surgical evaluation, which included history, interictal EEG, scalp video-EEG monitoring, high-resolution MRI and, when indicated, invasive recording by stereo-EEG (SEEG). There were 11 males and 10 females, whose mean age at seizure onset was 6.2 years, mean age at surgery was 24.7 years and seizure frequency ranged from 300/month. Nine patients reported excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). Prevalent ictal clinical signs were represented by asymmetric posturing (6 cases), hyperkinetic automatisms (10 cases), combined tonic posturing and hyperkinetic automatisms (4 cases) and mimetic automatisms (1 case). All patients reported some kind of subjective manifestations. Interictal and ictal EEG provided lateralizing or localizing information in most patients. MRI was unrevealing in 10 cases and it showed a focal anatomical abnormality in one frontal lobe in 11 cases. Eighteen patients underwent a SEEG evaluation to better define the epileptogenic zone (EZ). All patients received a microsurgical resection in one frontal lobe, tailored according to pre-surgical evaluations. Two patients were operated on twice owing to poor results after the first resection. Histology demonstrated a Taylor-type focal cortical dysplasia (FCD) in 16 patients and an architectural FCD in 4. In one case no histological change was found. After a post-operative follow-up of at least 12 months (mean 42.5 months) all the 16 patients with a Taylor's FCD were in Engel's Class Ia and the other 5 patients were in Engel's Classes II or III. After 6 months post-surgery EDS had disappeared in the 9 patients who presented this complaint pre-operatively. It is concluded that patients with drug-resistant, disabling sleep-related seizures of frontal lobe origin should be considered for resective surgery, which may provide excellent results both on seizures and on epilepsy-related sleep disturbances. An accurate pre-surgical evaluation, which often requires invasive EEG recording, is mandatory to define the EZ. Further investigation is needed to explain the possible causal relationships between FCD, particularly Taylor-type, and sleep-related seizures, as observed in this cohort of NFLE patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-573
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007


  • Epilepsy surgery
  • Focal cortical dysplasia
  • Nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy
  • Sleep-related seizures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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