What is a Neurological Surgeon?

A neurological surgeon is a type of specialist physician who surgically treats disorders of the nervous system including the brain, spine and sometimes the peripheral nerves. What is a neurosurgeon? This type of doctors is also known, interchangeably, as a neurosurgeon, and sometimes as a brain surgeon or a spine surgeon.

A neurosurgeon, or neurological surgeon, is generally trained to treat all types of disorders of the nervous system, including tumors, blood vessel diseases (aneurysms, etc.), epilepsy, hydrocephalus, spinal disease, head and spine trauma and more. However, many neurosurgeons sub-specialize in one of these areas. Common sub-specialties of neurosurgeons include spine, tumor, trauma, epilepsy, and pediatric neurosurgery.

How is a neurosurgeon different from a neurologist? Neurologists are medical doctors which only medically treat disorders of the nervous system. For example, they are adept at diagnosing and managing disorders where medications and other non-invasive treatments are used. On the other hand, a neurosurgeon generally is trained in the use of invasive procedures (surgery) for treatment of neurological conditions. Some conditions may be managed by both, such as Parkinson's Disease. In this case, the initial work up and medical treatment of these patients with medications is usually overseen by a neurologist. However, in more severe cases or in cases which progress to the point that medical treatments are no longer effective in controlling symptoms, a neurological surgeon may be involved to offer surgical options for treatment. On the other hand, some conditions are almost entirely treated by one or the other. For example, head trauma, hydrocephalus and others are almost always managed by a neurosurgeon.

Regarding spinal surgery, most neurosurgeons are trained in treating many disease of the spine and spinal cord. However, some orthopedic surgeons also get extra training in spinal disease. Therefore, a spine surgeon specialist can be either a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon. There is a good deal of overlap in the types of spinal disease they will treat. However, most diseases that directly involves the spinal cord itself (such as spinal cord tumors, spina bifida and others) are generally the domaine of a neurosurgeon.

Likewise, more than one type of surgeon may have expertise in treating disorders of the peripheral nerves, the nerves throughout the body outside of the brain and spinal cord. While some neurosurgeons specialize in this area, many peripheral nerve surgeries are performed by plastic or orthopedic hand surgeons as well.

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Important Note: This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.

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