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Neurology

We provide inpatient and outpatient services for chronic diseases and disorders that affect your brain, spine and the nerves that connect them.

VA Epilepsy Center of Excellence

As a VA Epilepsy Center of Excellence we provide comprehensive epilepsy evaluation and care for Veterans with seizure disorders.

Our mission is to improve your  health and well-being through the integration of clinical care, outreach, research and education.

Outpatient health care services

Epilepsy clinics

Care is provided by neurologists and nurse practitioners who specialize in treating epilepsy.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An EEG is a recording of the electrical activity of the brain. Your provider may order this test to check for seizures or other brain disorders.

How do I get ready for an EEG?

  1. Wash your hair. Do not use any hairstyling products after washing. Your scalp and hair should be clean and free of excess oils.
  2. Take your regular medications unless told otherwise by your provider.

How is the test performed?

Twenty-two small metal disks called electrodes are attached to your scalp with paste. Your head will then be wrapped with gauze to ensure the electrodes remain in place throughout the test.  

What will I be asked to do during the EEG recording?

  1. Remain as relaxed as possible.
  2. Keep your eyes closed. You will be asked to open and close your eyes a few times.
  3. Breathe rapidly and deeply (hyperventilation) for three minutes.
  4. Try to take a nap.
  5. Open and close your eyes while being shown several speeds of flashing lights.

The entire test takes approximately two hours. The two hours includes attaching the electrodes, the EEG recording and electrode removal.  

What should I do after the EEG?

  1. Wash your hair. A damp towel will be used to get as much of the paste out of your hair as possible at the end of your EEG. Usually, a towel is not able to thoroughly remove all the paste. The paste will come out when you wash your hair.
  2. Return to your normal activities.

Sleep deprived EEG procedure

An EEG is a recording of the electrical activity of the brain. Your provider may order this test to check for seizure or other brain problems.

Why do we ask you to be sleep deprived?

When you are sleep deprived it puts added stress on your brain. The added stress increases the chance that the EEG will show abnormalities. It also increases the chance that you will fall asleep during the EEG.

How do I get ready for an EEG?

  1. Arrange to have someone drive you since you will be sleep deprived.
  2. The day before your test get up at your regular time and stay awake all day. You may take a 1-2 hour nap before midnight. From midnight until your test, you need to stay awake. 
  3. No caffeine after 5:00 p.m. the night before your test.
  4. Take your regular medications unless told otherwise by your provider.
  5. Wash your hair. Do not use any hairstyling products after washing. Your scalp and hair should be clean and free of excess oils.

How is the test performed?

Thirty-two small metal disks called electrodes are attached to your scalp with paste. Your head will then be wrapped with gauze to ensure the electrodes remain in place throughout the test.  

What will I be asked to do during the EEG recording?

  1. Remain as relaxed as possible.
  2. Keep your eyes closed. You will be asked to open and close your eyes a few times.
  3. Breathe rapidly and deeply (hyperventilation) for 3 minutes.
  4. Try to take a nap.
  5. Open and close your eyes while being shown several speeds of flashing lights.

The entire test takes approximately two hours. The two hours includes attaching the electrodes, the EEG recording and electrode removal.

What should I do after the EEG?

  1. Wash your hair. A damp towel will be used to get as much of the paste out of your hair as possible at the end of your EEG. Usually a towel is not able to thoroughly remove all the paste. The paste will come out when you wash your hair.
  2. Return to your normal activities.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues within the body.

Polytrauma / TBI System of Care (PSC)

The VA’s Polytrauma / TBI System of Care is a network of specialized rehabilitation programs for Veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and polytrauma.

Preparing for your epilepsy clinic appointment

Prepare for your appointment

  • Please bring a family member or friend with you, especially if they have witnessed your events. Your provider prefers to have witnesses if possible.
  • Keep a log of your events and bring it with you.
  • Make a list of your concerns and prioritize them.
  • Bring a list of your medications and the dosage you are taking.
  • Bring a list of medications you have tried and the reasons you were taken off them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for clarification.  

​​​​​​​Questions your provider might ask you

  • How long have events have been occurring, and at what age did they first begin?
  • What happened before and during your first event, and subsequent events?
  • Exactly what you were doing when the event started? Working, exercising, lying  down, standing up?
  • How do you feel before, during and after an event or events?
  • What happens during your events?
  • How long do the events typically last?
  • Do you lose consciousness during your events?
  • Do you have convulsions or does your body jerk about during events?
  • Do your events appear to be brought on by stress? 
  • Do your events appear to be brought on by a lack of sleep?
  • Were you ill or did you have an infection around the time of your event?
  • Have you ever or recently used illegal drugs or abused alcohol?
  • Do you have a history of epilepsy or a family history?
  • Do you have a history of head trauma?

If someone witnessed the event, what did they see?

  • Did they noticed you were having an event, and what was the first thing they noticed?
  • Did the event start gradually in one a part of the body or affect the whole body?
  • What did they observe? Stiffness, convulsions, twitching, blinking, eyes rolling back in their head?
  • Did your skin feel clammy, appear flushed or a tint of blue?
  • Were there differences in your breathing?
  • Did you have any change in your speech?
  • Did you have a loss of bladder or bowel control?
  • How long did the event last?
  • Did you lose consciousness?
  • What occurred after the event? Fatigue, drowsiness, confusion and related symptoms?
  • Did you remember having the event or anything that occurred during it?

Inpatient health care services

Minneapolis VA is 1 of 17 sites that provide comprehensive epilepsy evaluation and care for Veterans with seizure disorders.

Epilepsy Monitoring Unit - Epilepsy Center of Excellence

Your provider may recommend you be admitted to the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) on the 3rd floor (3K) of the Minneapolis VA medical center. Patients are admitted on a Monday morning and the typical length of stay is five days. During your stay you will be undergoing video EEG monitoring. Video EEG monitoring uses a video camera and microphone to see exactly what occurs when you have an event while also recording the electrical activity of your brain.

Reasons for admission 

  • You may be having episodes or attacks that do not have a clear cause. This test may help us confirm what changes are taking place or give us reasons to search for other causes and to order other tests to be done. 
  • If we need more information about the types of events you are having, this monitoring will assist us in classifying your spells and help us decide on the best drug or treatment plan used to control that type of event. 
  • To determine if you have a type of seizure that could be treated with surgery.

What to expect

  • Your seizure medication may be gradually reduced or stopped during your admission. 
  • We may also use flashing light, sleep deprivation and deep breathing to try to induce a seizure. 
  • You will be shown how to use a seizure button to alert the staff in case you feel a seizure about to start. 
  • An IV will be placed in your arm during your stay in case you require intravenous medication. 
  • You won’t be able to shower or take a bath until the electrodes are removed the day you leave. You will be able to wash up at the sink.
  • Smoking, vaping and chewing tobacco is prohibited. We can order a nicotine patch for you if needed.

What to bring 

  • List of all medications currently taking.
  • Button down shirts. Nothing can go over your head once the electrodes are applied. You also have the option of wearing the pajama tops and bottoms provided by the VA.
  • Electronic devices, books, or crafts, etc. to occupy your time. Hospital rooms have DVD players. 
  • Seizure log.
  • Contact information for people who have seen your events. 
  • CPAP if you have one for sleep apnea.

What to know 

  • Please take your morning medicines unless told otherwise by your provider.
  • Wash your hair and do not use any hairstyling products after washing.

Follow up

Follow up will be planned at the time of discharge to further discuss the results of your studies and to check on your progress after you leave the hospital.

Neuropsychological evaluation (outpatient or inpatient service)

A neuropsychological evaluation is a test to measure how well a person's brain is working. The abilities tested include reading, language usage, attention, learning, processing speed, reasoning, remembering, problem-solving, mood and personality and more.

Education: epilepsy and seizures

What is epilepsy?

"Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes people to have recurring seizures. The seizures happen when clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain send out the wrong signals. People may have strange sensations and emotions or behave strangely. They may have violent muscle spasms or lose consciousness.

Epilepsy has many possible causes, including illness, brain injury, and abnormal brain development. In many cases, the cause is unknown." From the National Library of Medicine - Epilepsy

What are seizures?

"Seizures happen because of sudden, abnormal electrical activity in the brain. When people think of seizures, they often think of convulsions in which a person's body shakes rapidly and uncontrollably. Not all seizures cause convulsions. There are many types of seizures and some have mild symptoms." From the National Library of Medicine - Seizures

Learn more about the different types of seizures

Unknown onset seizures

The onset of a seizure is not known.

As more information is learned it may be reclassified as a focal or generalized seizure.

Generalized onset seizures

Seizures affect both sides of the brain at the same time.

All generalized seizures affect a person’s awareness or consciousness in some way. These used to be called tonic-clonic, absence, grand-mal, etc.

Focal onset seizures

Focal seizures start in one area or in one side of the brain.

  • Focal onset aware seizures
    A person is awake and aware during a seizure. This used to be called a simple partial seizure.
  • Focal onset impaired awareness seizures
    When a person is confused, or their awareness is affected in some way during a focal seizure. This used to be called a complex partial seizure.
  • Motor onset seizure
    Involves motor activity (movement) and may be due to either an increase or decrease in contraction in a muscle or group of muscles.
  • Non-motor onset seizure
    Can cause changes in any one of the senses.

Epilepsy resources


Patient/Caregiver Education - VA Epilepsy Centers of Excellence

Webinars, videos, handbooks and more.

The Anita Kaufmann Foundation

The Anita Kaufmann Foundation's mission is to educate the public not to fear epilepsy or brain trauma.

Cure Epilepsy

The Cure Epilepsy mission is to find a cure for epilepsy, by promoting and funding patient-focused research.

Epilepsy Foundation

For more than 50 years, the Epilepsy Foundation has shone a light on epilepsy by promoting awareness and understanding, advocating for laws that matter to people with epilepsy, and funding epilepsy research.

Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota

The Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota offers services for people with epilepsy and seizures across Minnesota and eastern North Dakota.

Epilepsy in the Workplace and the ADA - U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

This document provides information on how the ADA may apply to job applicants and employees who have or had epilepsy, including questions that may be asked, accommodations that may be needed, safety concerns, and harassment.

Education groups and events

Virtual epilepsy education group

The virtual epilepsy education group occurs every third Wednesday of the month from 1:00-2:00 p.m. during the academic year. Educational topics are presented in the first half followed by time for discussion with your fellow  Veterans.

To join, call 612-467-7934. If you don’t have access to an iPad or other mobile device, please email Anna.Shukla@va.gov o request a digital divide consult for a VA loaner iPad.

For more information, email Anna.Shukla@va.gov or Melanie.Seal@va.gov

Epilepsy awareness event

The epilepsy awareness event takes place every November at the Minneapolis VA medical center. It is open to all Veterans, visitors and staff to provide education and important resources. 

Thursday, November 3, 2022
Event 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Minneapolis VA Medical Center - main auditorium

Newly diagnosed epilepsy clinic 

This clinic provides an overview of important information and resources for Veterans who have a recent diagnosis of epilepsy. Discuss with your provider if this would be beneficial for you.

Seizure safety resources


Driving Laws by State - Epilepsy Foundation

It is important to know the driving laws for your state.

Epilepsy: Safety During a Seizure - Veterans Health Library

What to know, what to do and when to call 911.

First Aid: Seizures - Veterans Health Library

A seizure results from a sudden rush of abnormal electrical signals in the brain. Symptoms may range from a minor daze to uncontrollable muscle spasms (convulsions). In many cases, the person will faint (lose consciousness). A seizure can be caused by a high fever, head injury, medicine reaction, or condition such as epilepsy.

Living Well with Epilepsy - Veterans Health Library

People with epilepsy can lead healthy, productive lives. Life with epilepsy can be challenging, but there are things you can do to make it easier.

Identify your seizure triggers

Seizures are rarely predictable and many people may not know what exactly causes their seizure on a given day, but they may suspect certain things increase the likelihood of seizures. The most common trigger for a seizure is missing a dose of medication. Epilepsy medications work best when there is a steady level of medicine in your blood.

Knowing your triggers can help you manage your epilepsy. Keep a daily log to improve your awareness of what your seizure triggers are. You can choose to keep track of your seizures and seizure triggers on a paper calendar. There are also online tools and smartphone apps to help you track seizures.

From the VA Epilepsy Self-Management Guide

Common seizure triggers

  • Missing medication
  •  Sleep deprivation
  • Stress
  • Alcohol 
  • Recreational drugs
  • Flashing lights
  • Menstruation
  • Dehydration
  • Illness

Seizure tracker websites

Seizure Tracker

Online tool to help patients log and track seizure activity, appointments and medication schedules through a simple calendar interface from their computer or mobile phone; free.

Seizure trackers for mobile devices

Epsy

Manage your seizures, triggers and medication; free on iPhone and Android.

Nile

Preferred diary app of the Epilepsy Foundation; free on iPhone and Android.

Seizure Tracker

Online tool to help patients log and track seizure activity, appointments and medication schedules through a simple calendar interface from their computer or mobile phone; free.

Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Program (PDMD)

We provide compassionate care for Veterans with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders – such as Parkinson’s plus disorders, essential tremor and dystonia – so that you may live your most fulfilling life. This program includes medical, surgical and rehabilitation services.

The neurology and rehabilitation medicine departments use a shared care model for Veterans with a movement disorder. We use a lifelong care model and continue to follow you throughout the disease process.

Health care services

Medical services

  • Neurology diagnoses movement disorders and provides medication. Neurology providers specializing in movement disorders also provide programming for deep brain stimulators (DBS) to maximize the effects of the device and each Veteran’s level of function.
  • Rehabilitation medicine performs a comprehensive assessment focused on your daily function. They may recommend one or more therapies to maximize your quality of life.

Surgical services

  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery may be indicated as a treatment for certain movement disorders including Parkinson’s Disease, essential tremor and dystonia. DBS is now offered at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. Talk to your neurologist to learn more.

Rehabilitation services

  • Regular follow up and interval check-ins throughout the disease process
  • 1:1 therapies (PT/OT/speech) in person and virtual
  • Home safety evaluations and equipment needs assessments
  • 10+ virtual groups for wellness/exercise and voice each week
  • Intensive programming

Intensive programming

Outpatient (in person and/or virtual)

Inpatient residential

  • Living Large Programincludes intensive therapies listed above during a 5-week inpatient stay within our Polytrauma Transitional Rehab Program (PTRP). You must be independent with self-cares and mobility.
  • Living Large Program Refresher: this program is for you if you need a “tune up” with overall function and have completed intensive programming in the past. You must be independent with self-cares and mobility.

Education: Parkinson's disease and movement disorders

What is Parkinson's disease?

"Parkinson's disease (PD) is a type of movement disorder. It happens when nerve cells in the brain don't produce enough of a brain chemical called dopamine."

From the National Institute of Health - National Library of Medicine - Parkinson's disease

What are movement disorders?

"Movement disorders are neurologic conditions that cause problems with movement, such as:

  • Increased movement that can be voluntary (intentional) or involuntary (unintended)
  • Decreased or slow voluntary movement"

From the National Institute of Health - National Library of Medicine - Movement disorders

Education resources

Exercise and Parkinson's disease

Why should people with Parkinson’s disease exercise? Data from the Parkinson’s Foundation Parkinson’s Outcomes Project, the largest-ever clinical study of Parkinson’s, suggests that people with PD that complete at least 2.5 hours of exercise every week have a better quality of life.

"Aerobic exercise stabilizes progression of motor symptoms and improves cognitive function in people with Parkinson’s disease, according to additional data from the Park-in-Shape clinical trial." From Aerobic Exercise Stabilizes Motor Progression, Helps Cognition, Parkinson's News Today, January 4, 2022.

Exercise resources

Caregiver support

The Minneapolis VA Caregiver Program hosts a virtual group for caregivers of Veterans with Parkinson’s disease. Pre-registration is required and group is limited to 15 participants. To register, call Jessica Peterson, LICSW, at 612-243-7922.

Learn more about the caregiver virtual support group

Caregiver resources

PDMD resources


VA Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers (PADRECC)

VA created six specialized centers known as the Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers, that are designed to serve the estimated 110,000 Veterans affected by PD through state-of-the-art clinical care, education, research and national outreach and advocacy.

Parkinson’s Foundation

The Parkinson's Foundation makes life better for people with Parkinson’s disease by improving care and advancing research toward a cure.

Parkinson’s Foundation: Veterans and Parkinson's

Parkinson’s Foundation: Minnesota and Dakotas Chapter

LSVT Global

Evidence-based speech, physical and occupational therapies for Parkinson's, pediatrics, and other populations.

Parkinson’s Voice Project

Mission: To preserve the speech and communication of individuals with Parkinson’s and related neurological disorders through continuous speech therapy, follow-up support, research, education, and community awareness.

PDMD news and events

PDMD Program in the news

PDMD events

These educational events are VA or community-based.

October 17, 2022

November 15, 2022

  • Surgical Options for Veterans with Parkinson’s Disease (in-person in St. Paul and virtual via Zoom); 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Events through Parkinson’s Foundation

Stroke care

Minneapolis VA Medical Center is a VA-recognized Primary Stroke Center. We offer stroke services such as time-sensitive clot busting medication to help reverse strokes and we partner with other hospitals to provide you with advanced endovascular treatments. We also offer extensive rehabilitation services. 

If you think that you or someone else is having a stroke, call 911 right away. Immediate treatment may save someone's life and increase the chances for successful rehabilitation and recovery.

Health care services

In an emergency

If you think that you or someone else is having a stroke, call 911 right away.

In our Emergency Department, when a "Stroke Code" is called, we rapidly assemble a team, including a neurologist, to quickly complete the initial evaluation so that time-sensitive treatment choices are given as quickly as possible. Evaluation includes blood labs, swallow test, imaging tests and heart tests.

Treatment options

Treatment options are based on the type of stroke you've had, and each type of stroke has several treatment choices. Stroke treatment is individualized to best meet your needs. It may include clot-dissolving treatment, mechanical thrombectomy, or, aspirin or blood pressure control depending on the situation.

Your stroke care team

  • Neurologist: Physician who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and management of stroke.
  • Advanced practice providers: Trained to prescribe medication to treat and manage your symptoms from stroke.
  • Rehabilitation physician: Physiatrist who specializes in restoring functional ability and quality of life after a stroke.
  • Primary care provider: Works on addressing stroke risk factors to prevent strokes.
  • Physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist: All work closely with the rehabilitation physician to help restore function after a stroke and lessen disability.

Other team members might include:

  • Sleep medicine physician to address sleep apnea
  • Mental health provider to address post-stroke depression
  • Vascular surgeon to address certain blockages in blood vessels to brain
  • Neurosurgeon to address surgical options or aneurysm screening
  • Dietician to address obesity and nutrition
  • Social worker to help support patient and their caregivers. 

Education: stroke

What is a stroke?

"A stroke occurs when either too much blood or too little blood disrupts blood flow to part of the brain. This deprives brain tissue of necessary oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes brain cells begin to die and the result is a loss of brain function. Brain damage from strokes can be minimized if they're treated promptly, but it's common to mistake signs of a stroke for other health problems, which delays treatment." From My HealtheVet - Stroke Awareness: Get the Facts

What are the types of stroke?

  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA): A TIA is an early warning that a stroke may be coming. A TIA is a temporary stroke. It causes no lasting damage. But the effects of a stroke, if it happens, can be very serious and lasting. If you think you are having symptoms of a TIA or stroke--even if they don't last--get medical help right away.
  • Ischemic stroke: Ischemic stroke occurs when an artery that supplies the brain is greatly narrowed or blocked. This can be caused by a buildup of plaque. It can also occur when small pieces of plaque or blood clots (called emboli) break off into the bloodstream.
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage: A subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel on the surface of the brain bursts (hemorrhages). This spills blood into the surrounding tissue. This type of stroke often happens suddenly, with little warning. It is one of the most serious of all types of strokes.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke: Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. This lets blood spill into nearby brain tissue, which damages the cells. Other brain cells die because their normal blood supply cuts off.

From My HealtheVet - Stroke Awareness: Get the Facts

Signs of a stroke

Call 9-1-1 immediately if any of these signs of stroke appear: Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg; Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech; Trouble seeing in one or both eyes; Trouble walking, dizziness, or problems with balance; severe headache with no known cause.
  • Severe headache with no known cause
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden difficulty walking or dizziness, loss of balance or problems with coordination
  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes

Prevention and screening

Keep your stroke risks low with regular checkups and treatment for these conditions if you have them:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure, carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease, atrial fibrillation, heart disease
  • Sickle cell disease

Up to 80 percent of second clot-related strokes may be preventable. 

Stroke resources


Stroke Symptoms - Stroke.org

Learn and share the F.A.S.T. warning signs of a stroke.

Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Stroke - CDC.gov

When someone is having a stroke, every minute counts. (Video)

Stroke and Heart Disease - Veterans Health Library