Neurosurgery derives from the root word for nerve, and it refers to a specialty that’s a primary concern is the nervous system. The nervous system is composed of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, and neurosurgeons are qualified to operate on any of these structures. In addition, they often specialize in disorders of the spine, such as repairing vertebrae, because they are located so close to the spinal cord. It is their expertise that keeps the spinal cord safe during surgery on the vertebrae.
However, neurosurgeons can perform surgery on more than just the spine, and they are among the most skilled and technologically advanced branches in the medical field. From brain tumors to peripheral nerve disease, neurosurgeons are experts in treating the pain, numbness, and weakness that comes from problems with the nervous system. Many of these surgeons are also pioneers in the field of ultra-minimally invasive spinal and brain surgery. They are able to use the technologies that require smaller incisions and include the use of state of the art robotics. If you have a problem with your spine or any part of the nervous system, the neurosurgeon is the professional you need.
What is a Neurosurgeon?
A neurosurgeon must undergo a rigorous educational career to help patients. They start off with four years of undergraduate study, usually in a science such as biology or chemistry. After that, they continue on to medical school, and they spend three years studying general medicine. Following that is an internship in the hospital. They rotate through the different specialties to pick one that suits them. Neurosurgeons usually take a residency in general surgery for approximately five to seven years, and then they further specialize in a field of neurosurgery. This is called the fellowship stage and generally lasts one to two years.
Once this preliminary schooling is completed, neurosurgeons are able to treat patients with brain and spinal problems. When selecting a neurosurgeon, it helps to know what school they attended and if it is a reputable facility. You should also consider your surgeon’s experience. Surgeons with less experience will usually be well versed in cutting edge techniques, while older surgeons will have seen more patients. Some neurosurgeons further specialize in only brain conditions or only spine problems. You should find out what experience and specialties a neurosurgeon have before committing to them as your provider.
What Conditions Do Neurosurgeons Treat?
The most common conditions that neurosurgeons treat are brain conditions. If you experience a traumatic brain injury with a skull fracture, it is the neurosurgeons that are called upon to stabilize the brain and skull. In addition, neurosurgeons often perform surgery on microvessels, such as removing small brain aneurysms and removing large clots that may cause strokes. Brain tumors, malignant and benign, are another domain of the neurosurgeon, and some doctors specifically specialize in only this type of neurosurgery.
The spinal cord is the other domain of the neurosurgeon, and they can help to relieve spinal cord compression or stabilize vertebrae. When the peripheral nerves are traumatized, neurosurgeons can help to repair them and restore feeling to the traumatized area. Tumors of the spine and spinal cord are also removed by neurosurgeons, and infection of any part of the nervous system is generally treated by this professional. An interesting adjunct to neurosurgery is the emerging science that allows the specialty to treat movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. Through the implantation of neural stimulators, neurosurgeons are able to help these patients in ways that medicine alone never could. The field of neurosurgery is constantly expanding as new technologies come to light.
Neurosurgeons and the Spine
The back and spine are another popular specialties for neurosurgeons, and many conditions involving back pain are treated by these doctors. First, any trauma to the spine is usually stabilized by a neurosurgeon with rods or plates. However, spinal neurosurgeons also treat the degenerative diseases of the back. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis of the facet joints in the back are usually treated by neurosurgeons. Degenerative disc disease and its impact on surrounding nerves is another area where neurosurgeons have proven effective.
The most common back problem that neurosurgeons treat revolves around the discs in the back and neck. Many times, the discs become herniated, and they press on nerves close to the spine. This can cause pain at the site and in the extremities. Neurosurgeons can completely remove the disc and fuse two vertebrae together with a graft bone. Recent technology has allowed them to remove the bulging part of the disc and decompress the impinged nerves. In addition, many surgeries on the discs and vertebrae can be performed with high tech, ultra minimally invasive techniques that produce smaller scars, cause less pain, and have a higher success rate.
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