What is Spine Surgery?
Spinal surgery is the subspecialty that uses surgery to restore the normal function of the spine when things go wrong due to trauma, disease, or other disorders. There are many ways that the spine can begin to hurt or lose the ability to move properly, and surgery is not always necessary. However, when surgery is needed, there’s no one more qualified for the job than a spine surgeon.
Spinal surgery can be considered a subspecialty of either orthopedics or neurosurgery. That means that a spine surgeon may take either path to this specific career, training first as either an orthopedist or a neurosurgeon. Orthopedics deals mainly with the structural issues of the back and spine: the bones, muscles, and joints. Neurosurgery deals mainly with issues of the brain, nerves, and spinal cord. So when choosing a spine surgeon, it is sometimes possible that your surgeon’s background will have a bearing on your particular diagnosis. However, in most cases, it doesn’t matter. Either an orthopedist-spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon-spine surgeon can handle the majority of spine surgeries. What is more important is that some spine surgeons specialize in specific areas of the spine, such as lumbar surgery or cervical surgery. In that case, it is important to connect with a surgeon who is experienced with your particular need.
Some of the surgeries performed on the spine include:
Correction of spinal deformities, such as scoliosis
Minimally invasive spine surgery, including decompression surgeries such as discectomy and laminectomy
Balloon kyphoplasty, a procedure done to repair compression fractures in vertebrae
The spine is a very complicated piece of your body’s machinery, and a very necessary part of your movement and function. It holds you up and allows you to move. Having a working spine is important, and having a skilled surgeon when you need spinal surgery is critical.
What is Neurosurgery?
Neurosurgery is the highly skilled specialty devoted to the surgical treatment of issues affecting the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. It is similar to the specialty of neurology, which also treats disorders of the nervous system. Even though there is some overlap, neurosurgery focuses on the surgical treatment of nervous system disorders. However, not every neurosurgery job means surgery -- neurosurgeons may also provide a diagnosis, interpret imaging and test results, or provide non-surgical treatment, depending on the nature of the illness.
Neurosurgeons treat nervous system disorders such as:
Traumatic brain injuries
Brain or spine tumors
Blood clots in the brain
Aneurysms or stroke
Spinal cord injuries
Carpal or cubital tunnel syndromes
Repair of severed nerves
Infections of the brain or spinal fluid
Because the nervous system is both so delicate and so complex, neurosurgery has one of the most rigorous and competitive medical education programs. After college and medical school, it is common for a neurosurgeon to require 7-10 additional years of intense training.
New discoveries in this field allow neurosurgeons to heal and accomplish more than ever before, and they are now able to treat many injuries and illnesses that were once fatal.
Orthopedic surgeons, sometimes just called orthopedists, are surgical doctors of the musculoskeletal system. They work to keep your body active and in motion by treating problems with your bones, joints, tendons and muscles. The most frequently treated disorder seen by orthopedic surgeons is osteoarthritis, a common “wear-and-tear” problem where the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down, causing friction and pain. Orthopedic surgeons might also see patients for bone and joint deformities, amputation, infections of the bone and joint, overuse injuries, or nerve compression.
Orthopedic surgeons can order tests such as blood work and x-rays to get a clearer picture of the issue. Depending on the illness or injury, more than one different form of treatment may be used. Treatment may include:
Surgery, such as fusing bones together to increase stability, or replacing a joint
Medication, such as pain medication or steroids to promote healing
Casts, splints, or orthotics (devices such as braces or shoe inserts to support the body)
Physical therapy, a kind of treatment using exercise, stretching, heat, and massage to heal the body
Exercise, stretching, movement, and use of the affected part
Orthopedic surgeons also work to prevent injuries and slow the progression of disease in their patients. They educate patients on ways to prevent future injuries, and they treat illness in order to prevent further damage to bones or joints that may be affected by disease. The goal of an orthopedic surgeon is to help their patients restore movement and regain an active life.
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