If you need spine surgery to treat a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, sciatica, spinal deformity, or another condition that’s causing back or neck pain, the most important decision you have to make is choosing your surgeon. A surgeon’s skill, expertise and experience all contribute to the likelihood of a successful outcome for your procedure.
During your research, you may have realized that two types of surgeons perform spine surgeries: neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons. Which type of surgeon is the better choice? We’re here to break down the differences between these two medical specialties and explain why a neurosurgeon is the best choice for your spinal procedure. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know!
Orthopedic surgeons specialize in treating musculoskeletal conditions and diseases. The musculoskeletal system includes all the bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, cartilage, and nerves in the human body. An orthopedic surgeon’s job is to help treat acute injuries like sprains, strains and fractures, manage chronic conditions like arthritis, and correct deformities like scoliosis.
Neurosurgeons specialize in treating brain and spinal cord conditions and diseases. They have vast experience working with the components of the central and peripheral nervous systems, which include the brain, skull, spine, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. Neurosurgeons treat degenerative spinal conditions, head injuries, and chronic pain conditions, among other neurological conditions.
As you can see, the spine is one area where the fields of neurosurgery and orthopedics overlap. Both medical specialties include medical education to evaluate, diagnose, and treat spine conditions and disorders through non-surgical and surgical means. The primary difference lies in the level of hands-on training each specialty receives in relation to spine surgeries. Keep reading to learn more.
Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons undergo intensive surgical residency programs after completing medical school. And both types of surgeons perform spine surgery during residency. So what makes the difference?
Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons undergo different training during their residencies. A neurosurgery residency lasts for 6-7 years, during which time physicians divide their training between performing brain surgeries and spine surgeries. By the time their residencies end, neurosurgeons have successfully performed hundreds — if not thousands — of spine surgeries. They have highly specialized, hands-on experience working with the structures of the spine, the spinal cord and the nervous system.
In contrast, an orthopedic surgery residency lasts 4-5 years. During that time, physicians divide their training between performing multiple joint surgeries — shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, foot, hand, wrist, elbow, and spine. While orthopedic surgeons do perform spine surgeries during their residencies, their exposure is much more limited than a neurosurgeon’s is. A neurosurgeon gains far more surgical experience with spine procedures than an orthopedic surgeon does.
The type of surgeon shouldn’t be the only factor you’re considering when choosing a provider for your spine surgery. Whether you choose a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon, your doctor should meet the following criteria:
Daniel R. Spurrier, M.D., is a board-certified and fellowship-trained neurosurgeon with four decades of experience in the field. He specializes in general neurosurgery and minimally invasive endoscopic spine surgery. During his career as a neurosurgeon, Dr. Spurrier has helped hundreds of patients find pain relief through non-surgical and surgical means.
If you’re living with back, neck, or joint pain that’s keeping you from living the life you deserve, Integrity Spine and Orthopedics can help. Dr. Spurrier is currently accepting patients in our Jacksonville, FL, clinic. Please call us or reach out online to schedule an appointment.