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Orthopedic Surgeons vs. Neurosurgeons

Neurosurgeons and Orthopedic Surgeons are both qualified and trained to perform complex operations on the spine of a patient. Over the years, the line between these two types of surgeons has continued to blur and understanding the differences between them comes down to evaluating their key specializations and qualifications. In determining which type of surgeon is qualified to treat the medical needs of the patient in question, one must first evaluate the types of operations and conditions that best align with their unique skill sets. 

What are Neurosurgeons?

Neurosurgeons are trained to diagnose and treat disorders involving the central and peripheral nervous system. Some of these include vascular disorders, strokes, congenital anomalies, brain infections, and degenerative diseases. Educational programs for Neurosurgeons typically involve residencies spanning five to seven years. There is also a distinction to be made  between a Neurosurgeon and a Neurologist. While they both treat and diagnose disorders involving the brain, often collaborating closely together, a Neurologist doesn’t perform surgical operations. 

What is an Orthopedic Surgeon?

The history surrounding Orthopedic Surgeons is complex. In the early 1900s, these physicians were only qualified to treat children suffering from deformities. Overtime, the types of injuries, deformities, and conditions they treat have greatly expanded. Orthopedic Surgeons now perform complex operations involving bone tumors, hand injuries, arthritis, soft tissue repair for tendons and ligaments, and even total joint replacements. Educational programs for Orthopedic Surgeons involve residencies spanning four to six years.

A Neurosurgeons’ Specializations

Not every Orthopedic Surgeon specializes in treating the same type of injury. While many Orthopedic Surgeons are qualified to perform spinal surgeries similar to Neurosurgeons, others focus more exclusively on specific types of joints, ligaments, and limbs. These may include hands, shoulders, feet, ankles, and elbows. Some Neurosurgeons have key specializations as well. For example, some are focused on performing surgical operations involving the brain, while others specialize exclusively in treating spinal disorders. In addition, there’s a number of Neurosurgeons who are adept at performing procedures for both the brain and spine. 

Key Differences

Neurosurgeons are uniquely qualified to complete complex operations within the dura, which is the lining of the spinal cord. They also can treat issues with the spinal cord itself. Ailments such as tethered spinal cords, Chiari malformation, syringomyelia, and spinal cord tumors are all typically handled exclusively by neurosurgeons. 

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