Epilepsy surgery, vision, and driving: What has surgery taught us and could modern imaging reduce the risk of visual deficits?


  • Gavin P. Winston

    Corresponding author
    1. Epilepsy Society MRI Unit, Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy, UCL Institute of Neurology, London, United Kingdom
    • Address correspondence to Gavin P. Winston, UCL Institute of Neurology (Box 29), Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, U.K. E-mail: g.winston@ucl.ac.uk

    Search for more papers by this author


Up to 40% of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) are refractory to medication. Surgery is an effective treatment but may cause new neurologic deficits including visual field deficits (VFDs). The ability to drive after surgery is a key goal, but a postoperative VFD precludes driving in 4–50% of patients even if seizure-free. VFDs are a consequence of damage to the most anterior portion of the optic radiation, Meyer's loop. Anatomic dissection reveals that the anterior extent of Meyer's loop is highly variable and may clothe the temporal horn, a key landmark entered during temporal lobe epilepsy surgery. Experience from surgery since the 1940s has shown that VFDs are common (48–100%) and that the degree of resection affects the frequency or severity of the deficit. The pseudowedge shape of the deficit has led to a revised retinotopic model of the organization of the optic radiation. Evidence suggests that the left optic radiation is more anterior and thus at greater risk. Alternative surgical approaches, such as selective amygdalo-hippocampectomy, may reduce this risk, but evidence is conflicting or lacking. The optic radiation can be delineated in vivo using diffusion tensor imaging tractography, which has been shown to be useful in predicting the postoperative VFDs and in surgical planning. These data are now being used for surgical guidance with the aim of reducing the severity of VFDs. Compensation for brain shift occurring during surgery can be performed using intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), but the additional utility of this expensive technique remains unproven.