Recovery from Epilepsy Surgery: What to Expect

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African American male patient with head bandage in hospital bed talking to Caucasian male doctor
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Epilepsy surgery may reduce the frequency and severity of your seizures. But it may have no effect. A failed surgery can be psychologically devastating. But even people who have successful epilepsy surgery face challenges after surgery. Knowing what to expect after surgery can help you better prepare for life after surgery and make your road to recovery easier. 

What to Expect During Recovery

Recovery varies based on the person and type of procedure. You can expect to stay in the hospital for 3 to 7 days after epilepsy surgery. Most people can resume their regular activities 2 to 8 weeks after surgery. Some people may need to stay in the hospital for several weeks for intensive therapy following certain surgeries, such as a hemispherectomy. Based on your response to surgery your doctor will need to decide whether or not to taper your antiseizure medications.

Physical side effects from surgery are usually temporary and may include:

You will need to take it easy the weeks following surgery, and you will need to sleep a lot. Your doctor will manage your pain so that you are comfortable and can get the rest you need to recover. Gradually you will regain your energy and strength. 

Physical Challenges After Epilepsy Surgery

Some people experience longer-lasting side effects or complications from surgery. These may take longer to overcome and can include: 

  • Increased frequency of seizures after corpus callosotomy, but they should be less severe
  • Memory and language problems after temporal lobectomy
  • Partial paralysis on one side of the body after hemispherectomy
  • Vision problems after temporal lobectomy or hemispherectomy

A speech therapist, physical therapist, or occupational therapist can help you overcome many of these physical challenges.

Psychological Challenges After Epilepsy Surgery

Many people who have epilepsy surgery continue to worry about having seizures, even after they have been seizure-free for many months. It’s not easy to shake the worry you have with epilepsy. In fact, mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can worsen after epilepsy surgery. Particularly devastating can be the occurrence of an occasional seizure. But these seizures are usually caused by a particular trigger and easily resolved. It can take time to let go of the worry and gain confidence to try new things. 

Another challenge that many adults who have epilepsy surgery must overcome is how to handle their newfound independence. Adults who have lived with seizures much of their life may not have the necessary skills to function independently. Now that they are seizure-free, the new responsibilities expected of them can be overwhelming. Also, many adults and children may still have learning difficulties and require extra help or assistance at school or work.  

Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, no matter your needs. If you are struggling, talk with your doctor. He or she can recommend counselors and therapists to help you overcome these challenges and adjust to your new life.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 4
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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