Jefferson University Hospitals

Frequently Asked Questions

What is functional neurosurgery?

Functional neurosurgery is a specialty within neurosurgery that focuses on diseases and conditions that often do not correlate to any anatomical issue that can be identified through imaging studies. Rather, these disease processes occur as a result of an inherent neurochemical or electrophysiologic defect. Examples include movement disorders – such as Parkinson’s disease, tremor and dystonia – as well as epilepsy, spasticity and chronic pain.

While most surgeons operate to correct or remove anatomical abnormalities, functional neurosurgeons strive to modulate the chemical and electrical activity in the brain or spinal cord – thereby improving the patient’s symptoms.

What diseases and conditions can be treated through functional neurosurgery?

Functional neurosurgery is a relatively new and quickly advancing specialty. At present, there are three main types of treatment, each of which can address several different diseases and conditions.

The treatments available at the Functional Neurosurgery Center at Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience include deep brain stimulation, spinal cord stimulation and epilepsy surgery. Our Center also offers access to surgical trials for innovative therapies and new indications, or uses, of existing therapies.

Why don't more people with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders undergo functional neurosurgery, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS)?

Because of the progressive nature of Parkinson’s disease and the inability to “see” the disorder on diagnostic scans, it can take years to be diagnosed with this condition. Following diagnosis, oral medication is one of the most common courses of action. For many patients, medications can be of help. However, newer surgical techniques – namely, deep brain stimulation – can also have a dramatic impact on individuals with Parkinson’s. Even so, primary care physicians and even some neurologists are often not familiar with the newest advancements in this area.

Could deep brain stimulation help me or someone I care about?

For patients with Parkinson’s disease, deep brain stimulation may be a viable treatment under the following circumstances:

  • The patient has typical idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (in other words, the cause of the disease is unknown).
  • The patient continues to respond to levodopa or other dopaminergic medications.
  • The patient is disabled by medication-refractory response fluctuations, dyskinesias (involuntary, uncontrollable and often excessive movements), parkinsonian symptoms or medication-induced side effects.

Why is Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience an excellent choice for functional neurosurgery?

Unlike other hospitals in the area, our Center offers a full complement of treatments – including deep brain stimulation, spinal cord stimulation, epilepsy surgery and access to surgical trials. We are also fully integrated and work with a large team of neurologists, each with expertise in a subspecialty of neurological science, such as movement disorders or epilepsy. We also have a team of dedicated neuropsychologists who help to screen and counsel our patients. And we collaborate closely with Thomas Jefferson University’s Parkinson’s Disease Research Unit, headed by one of the world’s leading researchers in this field.

Another reason we’re your best choice: our patient-centric approach to care. We’re highly responsive to our patients’ medical and psychological needs and work diligently to coordinate and advocate on our patients’ behalf from diagnosis through treatment and follow-up.