To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis on the effect of earlier or later resective epilepsy surgery on seizure outcome.
We searched the electronic databases PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library for studies investigating the association of epilepsy duration and seizure freedom after resective surgery. Two reviewers independently screened citations for eligibility and assessed relevant studies for risk of bias. We combined data in meta-analyses using a random effects model. We assessed the certainty of evidence according to Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE).
Twenty-five studies were included, 12 of which had data suitable for meta-analyses. Comparing seizure outcome if epilepsy surgery was performed before vs after 2, 5, 10, and 20 years of epilepsy duration, and comparing epilepsy duration <5 years to >10 years, we found significant effects favoring shorter duration with risk differences ranging from 0.15 to 0.21 and risk ratios ranging from 1.20 to 1.33 (p < 0.01 for all comparisons). According to GRADE, we found low certainty of evidence favoring shorter epilepsy duration before surgery.
People with shorter epilepsy duration are more likely to be seizure-free at follow-up. Furthermore, there is a positive association between shorter duration and seizure freedom also for very long epilepsy durations. Patients who might benefit from epilepsy surgery should therefore be referred for presurgical assessments without further delay, regardless of epilepsy duration. The low certainty of evidence acknowledges concerns regarding study heterogeneity and possible residual confounding.