While many people assume a neurosurgeon is synonymous with a brain surgeon, neurosurgeons actually provide care for the entire body. As such, many individuals are surprised to learn what a neurosurgeon can do for them. To find out what a neurosurgeon can do for you, keep reading about what a neurosurgeon is and the treatments they provide.
A neurosurgeon is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing, managing and treating conditions affecting the brain, spine and nervous system. Before a doctor becomes a neurosurgeon, they must first complete an intensive education and rigorous training. Their education and training include:
After completing 16 years of education and training, some neurosurgeons pursue a subspecialty through a fellowship program. These fellowship programs take one to two years to complete and include pediatrics, functional medicine, spine, epilepsy and other areas.
The final step for a neurosurgeon is to take the board certification exam. While board certification is not mandatory for neurosurgeons, it is the highest qualification a neurosurgeon can attain.
Neurosurgeons treat any condition that affects your brain, spinal cord or nerves. In other words, they treat the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS). Your brain and spinal cord comprise your CNS, while the nerves that branch off your brain and spinal cord comprise your PNS. Here are some common types of conditions neurosurgeons treat.
Strokes have two somewhat opposite causes. They are caused by either ruptured blood vessels in the brain or interrupted blood flow to the brain. A stroke caused by a ruptured blood vessel is a hemorrhagic stroke, while the other is an ischemic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes are closely related to cerebral aneurysms, as both result from weakened artery walls, leading to internal brain bleeding.
However, ischemic strokes are the most common type, accounting for 87% of all strokes. They typically result from arterial blood clots that deprive your brain of oxygen-rich blood.
As your brain and spinal cord form the basis of your CNS, tumors in these organs can cause widespread effects. However, some tumors are benign and do not cause significant issues, though they may cause some pain and inflammation. A tumor is benign if it does not spread to other body parts. In contrast, malignant tumors invade surrounding tissue. If the tumor begins in the CNS, it is primary. However, it is secondary if it spreads to the CNS from another area. There are more than 120 types of CNS tumors.
Headaches are the most common brain tumor symptom, while back pain is the most common symptom of spinal cord tumors. Other symptoms affecting your motor system and sensory nerves almost always accompany CNS tumors, meaning headaches and back pain alone are not necessarily indications of a CNS tumor. On their own, such symptoms are most likely signs of a far less concerning issue.
Degeneration of bones, ligaments and spinal discs is the primary cause of most spinal cord conditions. These conditions include herniated discs, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease (DDD) and others. Other causes include congenital abnormalities or spinal trauma. The most common congenital spinal cord conditions neurosurgeons treat are:
As CNS specialists, neurosurgeons can treat any head, neck or spine injury. As such, they commonly treat:
Neurological disorders are any condition affecting your central or peripheral nervous system function. As your nerves span throughout your entire body, neurological disorders can present a vast array of different symptoms. Possible symptoms of neurological disorders include:
While you may think of neurological disorders primarily residing in the brain or spinal cord, they can affect any part of the body. Here are a few examples of neurological disorders:
Neurosurgeons treat any source of back pain affecting the spinal cord or canal. As such, they treat many different types of back pain. Here are just a few examples:
Not all conditions affecting the central and peripheral nervous systems require surgery. In fact, many only require surgery as a last resort. Moreover, neurosurgeons often provide non-surgical treatments before pursuing surgery for patients, such as injections, medications or therapy. However, if surgery is required, neurosurgeons are the only medical doctors qualified to provide treatment. Some of those neurosurgical procedures include:
A neurosurgeon can perform numerous other procedures, but these give an overview of some of the surgeries they most commonly do.