Which type of Surgeon? Orthopedic Surgeon or Neurosurgeon?
We are frequently asked on this message board “Which surgeon is better? An Orthopedic Surgeon or Neurosurgeon? The truth is, depending upon your specific condition, probably either in many situations.
As you can read here, both can perform a wide range of spine surgery so, much more of an issue for most of us should be, not which type of surgeon, but the specific area of expertise, qualifications, practical experience and success rate in your type of surgery, of the surgeon that you choose. Also very important is choosing a surgeon who you feel you can communicate easily with.
So, anyway, still what is the difference?
Simplistically, neurosurgeons work on the nervous system, while orthopedic surgeons work on “bones”. But this is too simplistic, as many of our spinal problems involve both the nerves (spinal cord) and bones (e.g. vertebrae). The following is a better “Surgeon 101” definition:
“Neurosurgeons focus on diagnosis and treatment of the brain and nervous system, such as the brain, spine and spinal cord, nerves, and blood vessels within the skull. Neurosurgeons must complete a five to six year training program in a neurological surgery residency program.”
“Orthopedic surgeons diagnose and treat bone and joint disorders such as spinal disorders, arthritis, sports injuries, bone tumors, skeletal deformities, and joint replacements.Orthopedic surgeons complete a five to six year training program in an orthopedic surgery residency.”
Source: Spine-Health Surgeon vs Neurosurgeon Info
The following perhaps gives an even clearer definition and comparison:
Both Can Specialize in Spine Surgery
Unlike in the past, both types of surgeons - neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons - are considered "spine surgeons". Since the spine is a central point of both the skeletal structure and the nervous system, it is an important area for both types of surgeons. Many surgeons of both types sub-specialize to treat exclusively or primarily a single type of condition, such as herniated discs or spinal fractures, or they may specialize in juvenile patients.
Orthopedic surgeons are generally more qualified at treating spinal deformities while neurosurgeons are generally more qualified to treat problems within the dura of the spinal cord.
The most important difference between any surgeons will be their level of experience with the specific procedure you are having done.
Of course expertise, training, experience and track record should be the top priority when determining which surgeon is best, but there are other ‘non technical’ or at least ‘more human’ factors that you also should consider, such as:
- How well does your surgeon communicate with you?
- Will he/she spend the time to answer your questions?
- Does he/she come across as empathizing with you?
Or more simply, how comfortable do you feel with your surgeon?
Spine-health.com also has lots of good information regarding selecting the right surgeon: