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Research paper
Antiepileptic drugs as prophylaxis for de novo brain tumour-related epilepsy after craniotomy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of harm and benefits


Objectives To investigate potential harm and benefits of antiepileptic drugs (AED) given prophylactically to prevent de novo brain tumour-related epilepsy after craniotomy.

Methods Randomised controlled trials (RCT) and retrospective studies published before 27 November 2018 were included. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were applied. Eligible patients were diagnosed with a brain tumour, were seizure naïve and underwent craniotomy. The random effects model was used for quantitative synthesis. The analysis was adjusted for the confounding effect of including patients with a history of seizure prior to study inclusion.

Results A total of 454 patients received prophylactic AED whereas 333 were allocated to placebo or no treatment. Two RCTs and four retrospective studies were identified. The OR was 1.09 (95% CI 0.7 to 1.8, p=0.7, I2=5.6%, χ2 p=0.5), indicating study consistency and no significant differences. An additional two RCTs and one retrospective study combined craniotomy and diagnostic biopsy, and were subgroup analysed—which supported no difference in odds for epilepsy.

Conclusions A prophylactic effect of AED could not be demonstrated (nor rejected statistically). Levetiracetam was associated with less adverse effects than phenytoin. The potential harm of AED was not balanced by the potential prophylactic benefit. This study suggests that prophylactic AED should not be administered to prevent brain tumour-related epilepsy after craniotomy.

  • brain tumour-related epilepsy
  • brain tumour
  • antiepileptic drugs
  • neurosurgery
  • craniotomy
  • neurology
  • epidemiology
  • meta-analysis
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