PURPOSE: Selective amygdalohippocampectomy (SAH) is a surgical treatment option for patients with medically intractable mesial temporal lobe epilepsy. In contrast to standard anterior temporal lobectomy, resection of unaffected tissue is limited, although it achieves equal seizure outcomes in selected patients. In SAH, the mesial structures can be approached by different routes, the transsylvian approach and the transcortical approach. Advantages or disadvantages with respect to postoperative cognitive outcome are still a matter of debate. METHODS: Eighty randomized patients were included in the analyses. In 41 patients, the transsylvian approach, and in 39 patients, the transcortical approach was performed. All patients received comprehensive neuropsychological testing of verbal and nonverbal memory, attention, and executive functions before and 6 months or 1 year after SAH. RESULTS: Seventy-five percent of patients became completely seizure free with no difference depending on the chosen approach. Repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) showed that cognitive outcomes after both approaches were essentially the same. The only exception was phonemic fluency, which was significantly improved after transcortical but not after transsylvian SAH. CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that either surgical approach can be chosen independent of cognitive outcome criteria. Improvement in phonemic fluency after transcortical SAH may reflect selective normalization of cognitive function after epilepsy surgery, whereas frontal lobe manipulation might have hindered recovery of this function after transsylvian SAH.
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