Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Center Utrecht, PO Box 85500, 3508 GA Utrecht, the Netherlands; Department of Child Neurology, University Medical Center Utrecht, PO Box 85090, 3508 AB Utrecht, the Netherlands. Electronic address: [Email]
This literature review on social functioning of children after epilepsy surgery is based on 24 papers addressing two categories of social functioning: social cognition (n = 4) and general social functioning (n = 20). Overall, studies that compared with healthy peers revealed children who had undergone epilepsy surgery to have more problems in both social cognition and general social functioning. Half of the studies found some improvement in social functioning in the first year(s) after epilepsy surgery, but this pertained to general social functioning, not to social cognition. The persistence of the problems in social cognition after surgery may be related to the critical period of brain maturation, lacking improvement of impairments in related cognitive domains or to a defective underlying brain condition - rather than to the epilepsy. Problems in general social functioning may be explained by the adjustments the children and their families had to make because of the child's drug-resistant epilepsy and difficulties to adjust to the new situation after surgery. The neurological and behavioral explanations are likely to be interrelated in light of the multifaceted and complex nature of social functioning. Epilepsy surgery does not appear to solve the problems in social functioning associated with having had drug-resistant epilepsy. As social functioning is an important aspect of healthy development, it should be assessed comprehensively in order to obtain a knowledge base that allows 1) proper treatment of children with epilepsy (CwE) and 2) counseling patients and families prior to and after epilepsy surgery.