Epileptogenicity of Focal Malformations Due to Abnormal Cortical Development: Direct Electrocorticographic–Histopathologic Correlations


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. I. M. Najm at Section of Epilepsy, 9500 Euclid Avenue, S51, Cleveland, OH 44195, U.S.A. E-mail: najm@ccf.org


Summary:  Purpose: Malformations due to abnormal cortical development (MCDs) are common pathologic substrates of medically intractable epilepsy. The in situ epileptogenicity of these lesions as well as its relation to histopathologic changes remains unknown. The purpose of this study was to correlate the cellular patterns of MCDs with the expression of focal cortical epileptogenicity as assessed by direct extraoperative electrocorticographic (ECoG) recordings by using subdural grids.

Methods: Fifteen patients with drug-resistant focal epilepsy due to pathologically confirmed MCD who underwent subdural electrode placement for extraoperative seizure localization and cortical mapping between 1997 and 2000 were included in the study. Areas of interictal spiking and ictal-onset patterns were identified and separated during surgery for further pathologic characterization (cellular and architectural). Three pathologic groups were identified: type I; architectural disorganization with/without giant neurons, type IIA; architectural disorganization with dysmorphic neurons, and type IIB; architectural disorganization, dysmorphic neurons, and balloon cells (BCs). The focal histopathologic subtypes of MCDs in cortical tissue resected were then retrospectively correlated with in situ extraoperative ECoG patterns.

Results: Cortical areas with histopathologic subtype IIA showed significantly higher numbers of slow repetitive spike pattern in comparison with histopathologic type I (p = 0.007) and normal pathology (p = 0.002). The ictal onset came mainly from cortical areas with histopathologic type IIA (nine of 15 patients). None of the seizures originated from neocortical areas that showed BC-containing MCD (type IIB).

Conclusions: This study shows that areas containing BCs are less epileptogenic than are closely located dysplastic regions. These results suggest a possible protective effect of BCs or a severe disruption in the neuronal networks in BCs containing dysplastic lesions. Further studies are needed to elucidate the nature and the potential role(s) of balloon cells in MCD-induced epileptogenicity.