Neurosurgery is the medical specialty concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of conditions, illnesses and injuries involving the nervous system and its support structures. This includes various conditions involving the brain, the spinal cord, the actual nerves, the skull, the bones of the spine, spinal disks, as well as the blood vessels, ligaments and the protective coverings that offer support to the nervous tissues. This work is usually regarded as some of the most complex within the medical field, in part because of how specialized and intricate these parts of the body are. In addition to actually performing surgeries, neurosurgeons are also frequently called to consult with other specialists when it comes to certain tumors, conditions, or illnesses, and they may also be found conducting complex research studies to advance knowledge in the field.
Intervention by a Neurosurgeon can be surgical but is most often non-surgical and is determined by the condition or injury as well as the general health of the person. Such problems may be the result of abnormal development from birth (congenital), from aging or “wear and tear” (degenerative), traumatic from a definite injury, infectious, neoplastic from a tumor or it may be related to other medical conditions or disease.
The number and variety of illnesses that neurosurgeons are called upon to treat may surprise you. You or someone you know will require a visit to a neurosurgeon during your lifetime. Neurosurgeons treat back and neck pain, spinal arthritis and herniated discs, spinal fractures and injuries in addition to the brain diseases that most people associate with the field.
Neurosurgeons are usually best known for their expertise when it comes to the brain. They treat tumors, tissue damage, and neurological injuries caused by blood clots, strokes, and accidents. In many cases, patients and general physicians aren’t sure whether there is a brain problem when the patient is first referred to a neurological expert, or if they are, they aren’t sure of the specifics. A patient may be having persistent headaches, for instance, or may be developing speech problems; trouble with memory or motor skills are sometimes also signs that something is wrong. The neurosurgeon’s job is to make an informed diagnosis and, if possible, come up with a treatment plan.
In most cases, surgeons who are trained to operate on the brain are also specialists in the spinal column. People with back injuries, from simple slipped discs to more complicated paralysis issues, typically visit neurosurgeons for diagnosis and repair. Most who work with the spine do not also work on the brain, as the intricacies associated with each are such that it is usually easier to specialize in just one area. Their training is almost always broad enough to cover both, though, which means that they can cross over in certain circumstances. Much depends on setting and individual interest.
Surgeons with neurological training can also repair certain kinds of nerve damage. An extensive series of nerves relays signals related to pain and other sensations from the spine and brain to all other parts of the body. Not all nerve damage can be repaired, but when it can, a neurosurgeon is almost always the one to do the job. This type of surgery can involve almost any part of the body, but on a very precise, highly detailed level. Procedures can be quite lengthy, often taking up the better part of a day even if only a hand or single finger is being operated on.