Neck and back problems are one of the most serious issues affecting a majority of Americans today. These problems may be minor or lead to chronic backaches, so there’s an increasing demand for specialists in the field. Neurosurgery and orthopedics intertwine in this regard. As a result, not many know whether to approach a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon for most back problems. This article identifies the overlap between both fields, as well as their differences.
Who Is a Neurosurgeon?
When the word neurosurgeon is mentioned, what comes to mind is a professional who carries out surgical procedures on the nervous system. Neurosurgeons specialize in performing surgeries related to the brain, spinal cord and nervous system. They deal with neurological disorders in all forms, and are not just restricted to the brain alone.
Who Is an Orthopedic Surgeon?
On the other hand, an orthopedic surgeon performs surgeries on the bones and joints. Their work is to ensure the perfect working of the musculoskeletal system; they deal with bones and ligaments and can combat infections, injuries, and degenerative bone diseases.
Differences Between Both Roles
The roles of neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons are closely linked. They both go through similar training to become qualified practitioners, and both fields address spine surgery. Both doctors can effectively diagnose and treat problems with the spine, and you’ll most likely find them working in complementary roles in the operating room. Still, many have a confusing time trying to choose which surgeon is the best for their spinal issues.
Surgical vs Non-Surgical Care
While orthopedic surgeons provide surgical and non-surgical care, neurosurgeons only specialize in the provision of surgical care. Neurosurgeons work with invasive procedures to address spine and neck problems, but orthopedic surgeons can do without the same invasive procedures. That’s why you’ll find an orthopedic surgeon recommending physical therapy for your backaches when a neurosurgeon wants to take you straight to the operating theater.
Working on the Brain
Another notable difference is that neurosurgeons can operate on the skull/brain. In contrast, orthopedic surgeons do not operate inside the skull or on the brain itself. This speciality is left within the exclusive power and ability of a neurosurgeon. This is because a neurosurgeon is trained to deal with this delicate and complex part of the body, while an orthopedic surgeon isn’t trained in that regard. As such, an orthopedic surgeon doesn’t have the requisite skill and expertise to carry out brain surgery. Neurosurgeons require slightly more training than orthopaedic surgeons because of the complexity of the body part they specialize in.
Who To Choose
Patients need to realize that both neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons can perform spine surgery. The major determinant in choosing between a neurosurgeon and an orthopedic surgeon is the body system/part on which surgery will be carried out. If the problem is with the spine, you can seek consultation with any surgeon appropriately trained in spine surgery. This way, you can be sure that they have the requisite skill, knowledge and expertise to handle such surgery without any complications.
Image Credits: Luis Melendez