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.

Will I gain weight from eating so much fat?

On this diet, the amount of food is carefully calculated so that you will eat all the calories you need for good health but you will not gain weight. The fat content of the food will not affect your weight because your total calories will be limited. If you desire to lose weight, that can be worked out with a nutritionist as you are working on the diet.

Do I need to finish all of my food?

You must finish all of your food, because the meal is put together in amounts that will give you the right balance of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. If that is not all eaten, the balance is lost and you may have a seizure.

Will taking prescriptions or other medicines affect the diet?

All medicines and pharmaceuticals from toothpaste to cough syrup to vitamins to prescription drugs must be free of sugar and other carbohydrates. You need to remind your physician to prescribe all needed medications in sugar-free and carbohydrate-free form. Read labels carefully and check with your pharmacist. While you are on the diet, you will be given supplements for a multivitamin, Nutraphos, calcium, and selenium.

Does the diet cause a problem with high cholesterol?

When adults are switched from a normal diet to an 80 percent fat diet, both cholesterol and triglyceride levels may increase. Your lipid levels will be checked on a regular basis while on the diet and if needed adjustments can be made to try to control your cholesterol and triglycerides levels.

What can I eat when I am away from home?

Your dietitian can help plan meals while traveling. Patients often pack their own meals in a cooler. Tuna, egg, or chicken salads are easy to carry in small containers. 

What about special holidays like birthdays and Thanksgiving?

The dietitian will be able to give you special recipes to make festive foods while allowing you to stay on the diet.