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Health Care Providers: Neurosurgeons

What Is Neurosurgery?

Neurosurgery (nur-oh-SER-jeh-ree) is the surgical care of diseases and problems of the brain, skull, spinal cord, and nervous system.

What Is a Neurosurgeon?

A neurosurgeon (nur-oh-SER-jen) is a doctor who does surgeries and procedures to treat and cure diseases and conditions that affect the brain and nervous system.

Why Would Someone Need One?

Neurosurgeons diagnose and treat such problems as:

  • concussions
  • spasticity (muscle stiffness or involuntary movement)
  • craniofacial anomalies (facial and skull bone disorders)
  • tethered spinal cord
  • spina bifida
  • intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding inside the skull)
  • arachnoid cysts (fluid-filled sacs inside the head or spine)
  • tumors of the brain, skull, spinal cord, and spinal column

They do many different surgical procedures as well, including:

  • neuroendoscopy (using a small camera to look in the brain)
  • shunt management (tube placement to help fluid drain)

What Is Their Training?

Neurosurgeon training typically includes:

  • 4 years of pre-medical education at a college or university
  • 4 years of medical school — a medical degree (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree
  • 1 year in a general surgery internship program
  • 5–7 years of training in a neurosurgical residency program

Some neurosurgeons do a fellowship in a subspecialty (for example, in pediatric neurosurgery). A “fellow” is a doctor who undergoes more specialty training after completing medical school and a residency.

Good to Know

Neurosurgery and neurology are closely related:

  • Neurologists focus on neurological conditions that can be treated with medicines or therapies.
  • Neurosurgeons do surgery when needed to treat the conditions.