Antiepileptic therapy in patients with central nervous system malignancies

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Abstract

More than 200,000 patients are diagnosed with primary or metastatic brain tumors each year in the United States. Of these patients, 20% to 40% will develop seizures at presentation, and another 20% to 40% will require treatment for seizures during their illness. Although the use of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in patients who have had seizures seems reasonable, the issue of prophylactic AED use for patients who have not had a seizure is an intensely debated subject. The American Academy of Neurology released a position statement in May 2000 addressing the use of anticonvulsants in newly diagnosed brain tumor patients who have never had a seizure. After a review of the literature, including all trials showing class I evidence, multivariate analysis using calculated odds ratios failed to show a prophylactic benefit of preventing a first seizure versus the risk of side effects and recommended not using prophylactic anticonvulsants in newly diagnosed patients with brain tumor. Despite this recommendation, a recent survey of the American Association of Neurologic Surgeons revealed that most neurosurgeons still use anticonvulsants prophylactically in patients with brain tumor. This review mainly includes primary brain tumors, but most of the concepts are transferable to patients with metastatic tumors.