We are often asked what the
difference is between an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon. An
Orthopedic Surgeon is trained in diagnosing and treating the diseases of the
musculoskeletal system including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and
nerves. A Neurosurgeon is trained in diagnosis and treatment of the
entire nervous system, composed of the brain, spinal cord and spinal column, as
well as the nerves that travel through all parts of the body (hands, legs,
arms, and face).
Both Orthopedic surgeons and Neurosurgeons gain experience in diagnosing and treating spine conditions during their residency. Both Orthopedic and Neurosurgeons are tested and certified by a Medical Board. Neurosurgeons are certified by The American Board of Neurological Surgery, and Orthopedic surgeons are certified by the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Spine surgery techniques have evolved so rapidly that a new discipline “spine surgery” has been born in the medical community. With the advent of new techniques for treating spine disease, such as The Artificial Cervical Disc, the general orthopedic or general neurosurgeon may not have the necessary equipment and training for a complex spinal procedure.
Most spine surgeons now agree that the use of high-powered magnification through a microscope is essential for handling tissue around the spine. Careful handling of nerve tissue will ultimately reduce postoperative scarring and reduce the chances of intraoperative tissue damage by the spine surgeon who is well versed in the use of micro-instruments techniques and visualization with illumination.
The well-trained spine surgeon will also have at his disposal a complete array of techniques which can be individualized to each patient. Every patient presenting with a spine problem necessitating surgery will have some unique quality which will require adaptation of all known surgical techniques. A key factor which will identify a surgeon qualified to do high quality spine surgery will be a record of producing spinal balance if spinal reconstruction is necessary. Little skill is necessary to produce a spinal fusion. Significant skill is necessary to recreate spinal balance.