Neurological surgery is the medical specialty concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of patients with disorders affecting the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. A neurological surgeon may provide either surgical or non-surgical care, depending on the nature of the injury or illness.
What kind of illnesses do neurological surgeons treat?
Accidents that injure the head, spinal cord or nerves require neurosurgical treatment. Neurosurgeons also care for patients with tumors of the brain or spinal cord.
Patients threatened by a serious stroke may have neurosurgery to increase the blood supply to areas of the brain and spinal cord. Removal of arteriosclerotic debris that has clogged neck arteries is a common neurosurgical procedure to restore normal circulation to the brain.
Children may be born with a brain or spinal cord malformed at birth or with abnormal spinal fluid circulation. Neurological surgery may be performed to help these children live a more normal life.
Perhaps the most common condition that neurosurgeons treat is pain in the neck or lower back spreading to the arm or leg due to a ruptured disk. Slipped disks or pinched nerves may be treated non-surgically through bed rest, back braces or therapy. Neurological surgery is performed to treat disability or pain symptoms.
How are neurological surgeons trained?
After five years of medical school and internship following college, the doctor enters a neurosurgical residency training course of five to seven years. Because of the extreme complexity of the nervous system and the high technology used in neurosurgical operations, residency training is long and rigorous. After successful residency training completion and two years in practice, the neurological surgeon may take the American Board of Neurological Surgery examination, a difficult written and oral test. Following successful completion of this, the neurological surgeon is board-certified in the specialty.
While the neurological surgeon has extensive knowledge after medical school and residency training, there are continual changes in the specialty which require ongoing study throughout the neurological surgeon's professional career. Monthly scientific journals, annual meetings, specialized symposia and other educational opportunities help the neurological surgeon keep pace with rapid changes and developments in the specialty.