By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The term “neurosurgery” is short for neurological surgery, a discipline that is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders. Neurosurgery is a sister discipline to neuromedicine, which involves the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders and complications using medications and non-surgical methods. In most patients, neurologists (who deal with neuromedicine) work alongside neurosurgeons.
Neurosurgeons operate on the brain, spine, or nerves of the limbs or extremities. They treat patients of all ages, ranging from newborns with congenital neurological abnormalities (birth defects) through to elderly individuals who may have suffered a stroke, for example. Neurosurgeons are also involved in the treatment of nerve injuries, neuroblastoma, infections of the central nervous system and neurodegenerative diseases.
A major part of diagnosing and evaluating patients in neurology involves the use of imaging studies such as computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and angiograms.
Neurosurgery is one of the more recent surgical disciplines to develop, originally gaining recognition in the early 1900s. However, it is now one of the most cutting edge medical disciplines in the world of science and medicine and involves the use of some of the most advanced technologies currently available.
According to the American Board of Neurological Surgery, to qualify as a neurosurgeon, a person must complete medical school as well as a neurosurgical residency training that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) in the United States. The neurologist also needs to have completed mandatory training in general surgery and critical care.
There are several sub-specialities that a neurologist can choose to practice and examples include pediatric neurosurgery, interventional neuroradiology, spine surgery, neurovascular surgery, neuro-oncology, pain management, and nerve trauma.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Apr 1, 2014