Predicting Memory Decline Following Epilepsy Surgery: A Multivariate Approach


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Sallie Baxendale, Department of Neuropsychology (Box 37), National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom. E-mail:


Summary: Background: While some patients experience a decline in memory function following an anterior temporal lobe resection, there is considerable individual variation in the extent, nature, and direction of postoperative memory change. Patients with surgically remediable temporal lobe epilepsy differ in etiology, the extent and type of underlying pathology, and on demographic and epilepsy-related variables, all of which may have an impact on their pre- and postoperative neuropsychological functioning. This study examined the relationship between these variables and postoperative memory decline.

Methods: Logistic regression was used to examine the effects of age, laterality of surgery, age of onset of epilepsy, underlying pathology and preoperative level of memory function on postoperative verbal learning in 288 patients who had undergone an anterior temporal lobe resection. One hundred twenty-five patients underwent a right temporal lobe resection (RTL), 163 patients underwent a left temporal lobe resection (LTL).

Results: In the group as a whole, 25% of the patients demonstrated a significant postoperative deterioration in verbal learning. Postoperative deterioration in verbal learning was significantly associated with higher levels of preoperative function in both the RTL and LTL groups. Older age at the time of the operation and a lower verbal IQ were additional significant predictors for the RTL group. The presence of cortical dysgenesis was a significant predictor of postoperative decline in the LTL group. The logistic regression models accurately identified 3/4 of those who experienced a postoperative decline in memory, using a cutoff of 0.25 or above to identify high risk.

Conclusions: Our analyses suggest that the majority of patients with a high risk of significant postoperative memory decline can be reliably identified preoperatively. These models are valuable tools helping patients make an informed decision regarding surgery.