Invasive electrocorticography (ECoG) is used in patients when it is difficult to localize epileptogenic foci for potential surgical resection. As MR neuroimaging has improved over the past decade, we hypothesized the utilization of ECoG diminishing over time. Using the USA Nationwide Inpatient Sample, we collected demographic and complication data on patients receiving ECoG over the years 1988-2008 and compared this to patients with medically refractory epilepsy during the same time period. A total of 695 cases using extraoperative ECoG were identified, corresponding to 3528 cases nationwide and accounting for 1.1% of patients with refractory epilepsy from 1988-2008. African Americans were less likely to receive ECoG than whites, as were patients with government insurance in comparison to those with private insurance. Large, urban, and academic hospitals were significantly more likely to perform ECoG than smaller, rural, and private practice institutions. The most frequent complication was cerebrospinal fluid leak (11.7%) and only one death was reported from the entire cohort, corresponding to an estimated six patients nationally. Invasive ECoG is a relatively safe procedure offered to a growing number of patients with refractory epilepsy each year. However, these data suggest the presence of demographic disparities in those patients receiving ECoG, possibly reflecting barriers due to race and socioeconomic status. Among patients with nonlocalized seizures, ECoG often represents their only hope for surgical treatment. We therefore must further examine the indications and efficacy of ECoG, and more work must be done to understand if and why ECoG is preferentially performed in select socioeconomic groups.
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