Penn Neurosurgery

Penn Neurosurgery

We are happy to announce the launch of our new Penn Medicine website.

Please stay connected to our Neuroscience blog by visiting us there.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Penn Proud to Serve as Flagship Sponsor for Race for Hope

Now entering its 10th year, the National Brain Tumor Society's Race for Hope is a 5K Run/Walk fundraiser to support the brain tumor community. The Race for Hope is a way to reach other families, patients and survivors affected by brain tumors.

Penn Neurosurgery
Penn Neurosurgery is proud to once again serve as a flagship sponsor for this year's Philadelphia Race for Hope to be held on Sunday, November 1.

Learn how you can help the fight against brain tumors by either donating to the team or joining the race by visiting the Penn Pioneers page on the Race for Hope website.

Race for Hope - Event Details
Date: November 1, 2015
Location: Steps of Philadelphia Art Museum-Eakins Oval
Race/walk starts: 8:30 a.m.

About the National Brain Tumor Society

The National Brain Tumor Society is the largest nonprofit dedicated to the brain tumor community in the United States. It is "fiercely committed to finding better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for people living with a brain tumor today and those who will be diagnosed tomorrow."

Brain Tumor Facts

  • Nearly 700,000 people in the United States are living with a primary brain tumor.
  • In 2015, an estimated 69,000 new primary brain tumor diagnoses will be made in the U.S.
  • About 120 types of brain and CNS tumors have been identified to date and some have multiple subtypes. Each tumor type/subtype is genetically distinct, making the search for treatments or a cure extremely difficult.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Trigeminal Neuralgia: A Patient’s Story

The excruciating pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia (TN) can be so bad that it can often keep individuals from working or participating in any sort of social life, making them prisoners of their pain.

Billie Jean (BJ) Caperelli of Doylestown, Pa., suffered for more than 10 years, with many unsuccessful attempts to get rid of the pain. It wasn’t until she came to Penn Medicine to receive a specialized surgery that she got relief.

Penn Neurosurgery
John Y. K. Lee, MD
This spring, she underwent surgery, a fully endoscopic microvascular decompression (E-MVD), at Pennsylvania Hospital performed by John Y.K. Lee, MD, an associate professor of Neurosurgery and director of the Penn Center for Cranial Nerve Disorders.

Dr. Lee performed the intricate skull-base surgery using an endoscope that is only one tenth of an inch wide, accessing the base of the trigeminal nerve via a one centimeter opening behind Caperelli’s ear.

Caperelli has been pain-free since the surgery, and is hoping for very long-lasting relief. She is grateful to have found Dr. Lee and his team.

Check out Billie Jean’s full story

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Introducing the New Penn Neuroscience Center

On February 23, 2015, the Penn Neuroscience Center officially opened, with the mission of providing a new level of specialty care for those suffering from or at risk for complex neurological disorders.

Penn Neuroscience CenterThe outpatient facility joins together our neurology, neurosurgery, neurodiagnostics, neuropsychology and neuro-ophthalmology expertise and the neurologic and psychiatric services of the Penn Memory Center. All longtime partners in the care of patients with complex neurological diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and MS; neurosurgical disorders of the spine, including congenital disease, arthritis-related disc problems and tumors of the spine and brain, including brain cancers, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, the Penn Neuroscience Center allows for enhanced collaboration, information-sharing and united front in caring for patients with these debilitating illnesses.

“The Penn Neuroscience Center was designed to create a unique, personalized patient experience” explains Frances E. Jensen, MD, chair of neurology. “In each treatment area, there may be a neurologist, a neurosurgeon, and a psychiatrist; as well as nurses and social workers. What this does is provide the patient with the kind of personalized medicine that is unmatched in the region.”

What the Center Means to Patients

The Penn Neuroscience Center was carefully planned with the best possible patient experience in mind. The new streamlined approach to neurological care does this by increasing access to comprehensive services and fully engaging patients and families in their care.

Located at 3400 Civic Center Boulevard on the 2nd floor of the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, the Center consists of 56 exam rooms and 16 dedicated rooms for neurodiagnostic and psychiatric testing in the following areas:
  • Neurosurgery
  • Neuro-ophthalmology
  • Neurology
  • Penn Memory Center
  • Neuropsychology
  • Psychiatry
  • Neurodiagnostics (EEG, EMG, NVL)
“We truly care about our patients and how the disease impacts all aspects of your life. This Center has brought us together to provide the kind of personalized care that people want and deserve,” says M. Sean Grady, MD, chair of neurosurgery.

Oftentimes, neurosurgeons and neurologists work together in order to provide the best possible patient care. Many conditions can be treated without surgery, with a treatment plan (usually involving medication) put together and monitored by a neurologist. If medical intervention fails or is not acceptable for the condition, the neurologist will request the assistance of a neurosurgeon to evaluate the potential for a surgical treatment. Problems that are structural in nature may respond best to neurosurgical intervention. While there is a good deal of overlap between all neurological specialists in a clinical setting, there are some key differences, described below:

What is a Neurologist?

Neurologists focus on disorders of the nervous system, brain, spinal cord, nerves, muscles and pain. Common neurological disorders include: stroke, Alzheimer's disease, headache, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, sleep disorders, multiple sclerosis, pain, tremor, brain and spinal cord injuries, brain tumors, peripheral nervous disorders and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

What is a Neurosurgeon?

A neurosurgeon diagnoses and treats patients with injury to or diseases of, the brain, spine or peripheral nerves. A neurosurgeon may provide either surgical or non-surgical care depending on the nature of the injury or illness.

Interested in scheduling an appointment? Call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Traumatic Brain Injury: A Survivor's Path to Recovery

Don't despair. It's a marathon, but there is hope at the end of the tunnel."
— Candace Gantt, traumatic brain injury survivor

Ask any neurologist, trauma doctor, or triage nurse treating Level 1 traumatic brain injuries, and they’ll probably tell you the same thing: Candace Gantt should not be walking, talking, or functioning in everyday life.

She shouldn’t be gearing up for another season of racing either. But she is—ready to run, bike, and swim her way into even better shape.

The Ride of Her Life

Nearly 10 years ago, on July 19, 2005 to be exact, Candace was out for a bike ride with a neighbor and training partner.

That is, until a tractor-trailer changed her plans for the day—and for the next several years of her life.

“A truck came up on us very quickly. A construction vehicle hauling a trailer fishtailed and hit me. I was launched into a telephone pole at 30 miles per hour, then into a stockade fence, and I landed back on the road.” That is how Candace now “remembers” her accident.

Candace suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. Her short-term memory was wiped clean, leaving her with no emotional trauma from the event.

A neurologist who happened to be a mile from the accident, received the call as a first responder for Level 1 trauma. Knowing how critical her situation was, he immediately recommended to the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) on the scene to have her airlifted to Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.

Tough Calls to Make

Candace’s husband, Russ, was working nearly an hour away in Wilmington, Delaware when he got the call. Her cycling buddy said Candace was in an accident and was being airlifted to Penn.

Russ headed straight for the emergency room and was immediately escorted into a private consultation room - to meet with a priest. Russ just lost it, even though the priest was there for comfort and not last rights.

After Candace was stable, Sean Grady, MD, called to tell Russ that he was going to perform an emergency craniotomy. The surgery required removing a piece of Candace’s skull to release the swelling.

“We went through a resuscitation with her that involved some very rapid decision making in terms of surgery, monitoring her pressure inside of her brain, and then opening a window in the skull to decompress the brain,” recalls Dr. Grady.

“I wasn’t sure, as I remember telling her husband, how this was all going turn out. I felt that she would live, but I wasn’t sure what her outcome was going to be. She obviously made a spectacular outcome.”

All in for a Team Effort

Candace firmly believes her “stars were aligned” when she thinks about how many small miracles needed to be in place. She credits her care team at Penn Medicine, Dr. Grady and a woman named Susanne she came to know after coming out of a coma.

“It is an enormous privilege for me to do what I'm doing. I have that opportunity to intervene with somebody at their most important moment, to make a difference in their life and get them back to their families. It's why I do what I do,” Dr. Grady says.

“[Dr.] Sean Grady saved my life. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Candace says.

Every morning while Candace was in the coma, Susanne whispered words of encouragement to her as an attempt to break through her unconscious and give her strength.

In rehab, that voice - and an almost incessant desire to get back to her full self - kept her motivated in a way that Candace didn’t connect until later.

Meanwhile, an army of support kept Candace’s life running smoothly:
  • Russ took a month off of work and stayed at the hospital across the street, so he could give Candace his full attention and help her recover.
  • Russ’s family drove in from Ohio to help run the household.
  • Close friends Cindy and Brant Singley left their children with their grandparents in Cape Cod and flew down to be with Candace’s daughters.
  • The Singleys brought dinner for the next three months and helped keep the household running.
Six months after the accident, Candace was back on her bike.

Before her accident, Candace had never broken a bone. But this traumatic event and the years of rehabilitation afterward served as a reminder of just how lucky we all are and how fortunate she was to survive.

Her advice to someone who has been traumatized or has received the kind of shock her family did is this: “Don’t despair. Recovery is possible. It’s a marathon, but there is hope at the end of that tunnel. It’s so easy to lose hope, and it can be heartbreaking. Your life will never be the same, but you will survive.”

Resources for Recovery

Traumatic Brain InjurySince her accident, Candace has been a big supporter of events and organizations that help educate and raise funds for traumatic brain injury research, such as Penn’s Mind Your Brain, a free conference for brain injury survivors, families and caregivers. scheduled for Friday, March 13. The goal of the event is to reach out to people who have suffered a concussion or traumatic brain injury. Once brain injury patients have completed surgery, and in some cases finished rehabilitation, there is a gap between “high functioning” and true recovery.

Research dollars will fund post-doctoral work and help identify systemic proteins created or released after a traumatic brain injury. When these proteins are released, the brain begins to deteriorate. If research can discover ways to stop the proteins, we can dramatically slow down or even halt the brain’s deterioration. Then the brain will function normally, or close to normally, again after such a trauma.

Looking for ways to help or need reasons for hope? The Mind Your Brain event at Penn Medicine is dedicated to filling the gaps between high functioning and the realities of everyday life, after a brain injury or other trauma. All of the research dollars will go the Penn Center for Brain Injury and Repair.

Event Details

When: Friday, March 13, 2015
Where: Smilow Research Center
             3400 Civic Center Boulveard
             Philadelphia. PA, 19104
Register Now

Monday, February 23, 2015

Personalized T Cell Therapy Shows Promise in Stopping Brain Tumor Growth

A recent study, published in Science Translational Medicine, suggests hope for glioblastoma patients.

The approach, which included members from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, involved engineering immune cells to seek out and attack a type of deadly brain cancer, beginning with its impact in mice. While it's still to early to indicate the potential effect and long-term benefits for people with gliobastoma, the results were found to be safe and effective at controlling tumor growth in mice with these modified cells. These results have paved the way for a newly opened clinical trial being conducted at Penn Medicine.

Dr. O'Rourke
Donald M. O'Rourke, MD
"Patients with this type of brain cancer have a very poor prognosis. Many survive less than 18 months following their diagnosis," said M. Sean Grady, MD, chair of the department of Neurosurgery. "We've brought together experts in an array of fields to develop an innovative personalized immunotherapy for certain brain cancers."

The new trial is led by Donald M. O'Rourke, MD, associate professor of Neurosurgery, who oversees an interdisciplinary collaboration of neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, neuropathologists, immunologists, and transfusion medicine experts.

Learn more about how the preclinical study results have paved the way for this newly opened clinical trial.

Interested in learning more about current neurosurgery clinical trials?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Question and Answer with Dr. Ozturk

Ali K. Ozturk, MD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and sees patients at Pennsylvania Hospital and Penn Medicine Woodbury Heights. He specializes in the treatment of complex spinal conditions including tumors, degenerative spine disease, trauma, and minimally invasive spine surgery and brain tumors, brain trauma.
Dr. Ozturk

What conditions will you treat at Pennsylvania Hospital and Penn Medicine Woodbury Heights?

I mostly focus on degenerative, traumatic, and oncologic diseases of the spine and spinal cord.  I also am trained in treating cranial tumors and trauma and am certified in Gamma Knife radiosurgery.

Why are you excited about practicing at Penn Medicine Woodbury Heights?

I am excited to be able to deliver the same quality of care to patients in the Woodbury Heights region at the convenience of their own town, sparing them the extra trip into the city.  The facilities and staff at Woodbury is all top notch.

What is your philosophy on patient care?

I believe the most important aspect of patient care is trust. For this reason, I strive to treat each patient as if they were a close relative. I also feel that communication is key when treating a patient. It is important to fully collaborate on the treatment of any condition.

What kinds of research will you be involved with at Penn Medicine?

I will be involved in translational research involving the spinal disease, as well as genetic research investigating the causes of tumors of the central nervous system on a molecular level.

What do you enjoy doing outside of practicing medicine?

I enjoy spending time with my wife and son, playing chess and working out. I am also an avid fan of the Denver Broncos.

Learn more about Penn Neurosurgery.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Penn Research Offers Hope of Finding Concussion Marker

Robert Siman, PhD
Robert Siman, PhD
A new study from Penn Medicine neuroscientists found that a blood protein called SNTF has promise as a biomarker for sports-related concussion, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Led by Robert Siman, PhD, an associate professor of Neurosurgery, the team found that SNTF surged and stayed elevated in professional hockey players with persistent concussion symptoms, but not in players who recovered.

"A protein like this [SNTF] is so desperately needed,” Siman told the Inquirer. “We need a way to pull athletes out of a game, prick their finger, and not even ask them their symptoms. We need to take the guesswork out of diagnosing concussion."

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