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Functional Neurosurgery

Functional neurosurgery involves modifying neuronal function, usually by introducing electrical stimulation or focal ablation of brain areas in order to improve neurological function. Epilepsy, movement disorders and chronic pain are disorders commonly treated in this way. 

Epilepsy is characterized by seizures, which can present as changes in awareness, behavior, sensation and involuntary body movement or function. Patients whose seizures are not well controlled by medications may benefit from a surgical procedure designed to remove the seizure focus. Surgical procedures include the temporary implantation of electrodes to identify the epilepsy source, removal of epileptic site, vagal nerve stimulation and thalamic stimulation.

UNM’s Epilepsy Service consists of neurologists and neurosurgeons focus on defining the optimum treatment of seizure disorders. UNM Hospital has an epilepsy monitoring unit where patient with seizure disorders may be monitored for many days in order to define the true nature of the disorder.

The program for neuromodulation of the central nervous system has a number initiatives. Movement disorders are treated by a team of neurologists who specialize in this area. New programs to treat obsessive-compulsive behaviors or depression with direct brain stimulation are underway. Members of our group are also engaged in the modulation of spine and spine-related pain disorders using spinal cord stimulation. 

The program for neuromodulation of the central nervous system has a number of initiatives. Movement disorders are treated by a team of neurologists who specialize in treatment of Parkinson’s disease. New programs to treat obsessive-compulsive behaviors or depression with direct brain stimulation are underway. Members of our group are also engaged in the modulation of spine and spine-related pain disorders using spinal cord stimulation. 

Movement disorders include tremors and abnormal postures. Parkinson's disease may have both a typical tremor and atypical movements. Deep brain stimulation can be very beneficial for patients with Partkinsonian tremor who no longer respond to medication.  

Chronic pain that is unresponsive to medical and physical therapy interventions may also benefit from a surgical approach. Epidural spinal cord stimulation is proving very beneficial for many patients who have failed to achieve comfort from prior interventions.

UNM neurosurgeons use non-destructive means to treat chronic pain, improve cognition and improve movement disorders, including:

  • Movement Disorders – Parkinson’s, essential tremor and dystonia (deep brain stimulation). Spasticity (intracathecal pump for baclofen infusion). Hemifacial spasm (microvascular decompression)
  • Pain – Trigeminal neuralgia (microvascular decompression, focus nerve injury via radiofrequency, balloon inflation, alcohol injection or Gamma Knife) and spinal pain management (spinal cord stimulation evaluation, spinal cord stimulator implantation)