Selective Amobarbital Test for the Determination of Language Function in Patients with Epilepsy with Frontal and Posterior Temporal Brain Lesions

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Selective amobarbital tests with selective temporary inactivation of the left frontal operculum and/or the left parietotemporal cortex were performed in 5 patients with left-hemispheric epileptogenic lesions in or adjacent to classical Broca's and/or Wernicke's area. The aim was to assess language functions in these brain regions before surgery, to tailor the surgery according to the individual functional importance of these brain regions, and to predict postoperative outcome.


Amobarbital was injected by transfemoral selective catheterization of the arteries supplying the target areas. Along with neuropsychological and neurological testing during the amobarbital procedure, EEG recordings were performed in all patients, and [99mTc]HMPAO-single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) in 2 patients.


After the amobarbital injection into the left frontal opercular region, there was no recognizable language dysfunction in 3 patients. In these 3 patients, the lesions in or adjacent to the frontal operculum were completely resected without postoperative language impairment. In the remaining 2 patients, temporary language impairment after the amobarbital injection into the left frontoopercular and Wernicke's region, respectively, suggested language functions in these areas. Surgery was restricted to the left mesiotemporal lobe in 1 patient. In the other patient, the tumor infiltrating the frontal operculum was restrictively resected. Postoperatively, the first patient had no language impairment, but the latter had transient global aphasia, from which she recovered.


Selective temporary amobarbital inactivation of brain regions that may be associated with language has clearly indicated the presence or absence of language functions in these regions. The test contributed substantially to planning of the surgical approach in each patient. The predictive value of the amobarbital test was demonstrated by the postoperative outcome.

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