Developmental plasticity after right hemispherectomy in an epileptic adolescent with early brain injury
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- Chiricozzi, F., Chieffo, D., Battaglia, D. et al. Childs Nerv Syst (2005) 21: 960. doi:10.1007/s00381-005-1148-y
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The authors present the case of an adolescent affected with refractory epilepsy due to a neonatal ischemic infarction of the right medial cerebral artery. Hemiplegic since the first months of life, she began presenting motor partial seizures associated with drop attacks at 4.5 years; these were initially well controlled by antiepileptic drugs, but at 10 years seizures appeared again and became refractory. Thus, at 14 years and 10 months, she was submitted to a right hemispherectomy that made her rapidly seizure free. In the post-surgical follow-up lasting 5 years, neuropsychological serial assessments showed an impressive progressive improvement of cognitive skills, namely, visuospatial abilities. This case seems to challenge the widely spread feeling that functional catch-up in brain-injured children could only occur early in life. In effect, the astonishing recovery especially of visuospatial skills in our case occurred in adolescence after a late surgical intervention of right hemispherectomy.
Different neuropsychological aspects are discussed. The reorganisation process recovered the spatial and linguistic abilities as well as the verbal and visuospatial memory; however, there was a persistent impairment of complex spatial and perceptual skills as well as recall abilities. Despite the deficit of complex visual stimuli processing, the patient showed a good performance in the recognition of unknown faces.
Probably, the absence of seizures in the first 4 years of life could have allowed a generally adequate compensatory reorganisation, successively masked by the persistent and diffuse epileptic disorder. The seizure control produced by surgery eventually made evident the effectiveness of the brain reorganisation.