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.
Neurology is the study of the brain and nervous system, including the spinal cord and nerves. Disorders of the nervous system can affect many parts of the body, and a neurological exam must be quite thorough. A neurologist examining a new patient will check for any issues with:
motor skills (the way your brain and muscles work together)
sensory skills (sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell)
coordination and balance
changes in mood or behavior
A neurologist can order different kinds of tests to check the function of the brain and nerves. These tests may include a head CT scan (a type of 3-dimensional x-ray), an electroencephalogram (which measures the electrical impulses inside the brain), an MRI (a detailed image of the brain or spinal cord), or electromyography (which uses electricity to test nerve function). The results of the exam and the tests help neurologists diagnose and form treatment plans for disorders like multiple sclerosis, tremors, stroke, and migraine headaches.
Some neurological problems, such as certain brain tumors, may require surgical treatment. Since neurologists do not perform surgery, they will refer patients who need operations to a surgical subspecialist, such as a neurosurgeon. Beyond surgery, a neurologist might recommend any of the following treatments:
medication (such as interferon for MS or topiramate for migraines)
laser therapy (class IV laser treatment is sometimes used to alleviate peripheral neuropathy pain)
physical therapy (stretches and exercises can increase balance and range of motion, helping patients to move more easily and with less pain)
Therapies such as these can improve quality of life for patients dealing with neurological disorders. Neurologists help their patients sense and interact with the world at their very best.
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