The Difference Between A Neurologist and A Neurosurgeon

You may have heard the terms neurologist and neurosurgeon used interchangeably. However, these are two different specialties that help patients with a variety of neurological conditions. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the difference between these two neurology specialists and explain which one might be right for your condition.

Neurologist vs. neurosurgeon

Here’s a closer look at the tasks and conditions treated by both groups.

Neurologist – A neurologist is a doctor who treats diseases of the brain and nervous system. They can treat a wide range of conditions, including headaches, sleep disorders, brain tumors, peripheral nerve disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. However, a neurologist does not perform corrective surgical procedures. Because they do not perform surgery, many neurologists choose to focus on a specific group of neurological disorders. Rather than being a jack-of-all-trades, many choose to focus on one neurological subspecialty, such as pediatric neurology, vascular neurology or epilepsy treatment.

A neurologist completes four years of premedical training at a college or university and four years of medical school to earn their MD or DO degree. They then typically complete a one-year internship and at least three years of residency training in a neurology residency program.

Neurosurgeons – As the name implies, a neurosurgeon is a doctor who treats neurological conditions both with and without surgery. You might assume that neurosurgeon is just another name for a brain surgeon, but that’s not an accurate assessment either. As you can see from our blog and website, Dr. Chang is a neurosurgeon who performs corrective surgical procedures on the brain, neck and spine. In fact, most neurosurgeons perform more spine surgery than brain surgery each year, so they are not just brain surgeons.

The most common conditions that neurosurgeons treat with conservative measures or surgery include:

Herniated discs
Degenerative discs
Spinal tumor
Brain tumor
Spinal nerve disorders
Neurosurgeons perform both elective and emergency surgeries, depending on the situation. Patients with disc problems or tumors may make an appointment for surgery, while patients with severe trauma may be treated by a neurosurgeon in the emergency room.

A neurosurgeon goes through a similar training path, but it is even longer. In fact, a neurosurgeon’s training is the longest of any medical specialty, and rightfully so. They complete a four-year undergraduate degree, a four-year medical degree, a one-year internship, and then a 5-7 year residency. Following residency, many complete a fellowship to specialize in an area such as spine care or pediatric neurosurgery.

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