LOS ANGELES -- Epilepsy surgery is gaining in popularity as techniques for finding diseased tissue and removing it have improved, said Dr. William Theodore, chief of the clinical epilepsy branch at the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke in Bethesda, Md. But the most spectacular results are being seen in babies and very young children.
"We've always hoped that kids with uncontrollable seizures would outgrow it," Dr. Theodore said. "But a significant number do not. Now there is increasing evidence that the earlier you operate, the better you help them avoid later neurological and social problems."
Dr. Harry Chugani, a brain imaging specialist at UCLA, says he thinks he knows why.
Using a technique that injects radioactive tracers into babies' brains before and after surgery, Dr. Chugani maintains that he has the first real proof that human brains can make extensive reconnections after surgery, but only if the patient is 5 years of age or younger, preferably 2 or under.