When your general practitioner suspects a serious spine condition, they may refer you to a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon for follow-up care. The diagnosis and treatment of herniated discs, tumors or spinal stenosis requires in-depth knowledge and specialized competence. In terms of experience and qualifications, there is a lot of overlap between board-certified neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons, but there are some distinct differences as well.
Neurosurgeons: Specialized Training
Neurosurgeons are trained to focus on protecting nerves and the spinal cord whereas orthopedic surgeons are trained to focus on bone structure. Given that spine surgery involves working around your spinal cord and thousands of small nerves, choosing a surgeon who has been trained to protect them is very important.
Many people do not realize that neurosurgeons treat spinal conditions and perform surgery on spinal disorders such as degenerative discs and spondylolisthesis. The common misconception is that neurosurgeons only perform brain surgery. In fact, most neurosurgeons perform far more spinal surgery than brain surgery.
Neurosurgery training includes a year of general surgery internship followed by six or seven years of a grueling neurosurgery residency. During this time, residents are trained to treat both brain and spinal conditions, but by far the most common operations performed are spinal.
During their training, neurosurgery residents are trained extensively in microsurgical and minimally invasive technical skills. As a core part of their training, they are taught to work around the brain and spinal cord and to protect neural structure.
Orthopedic Surgeons Focus on Musculoskeletal System
By contrast, the training of an orthopedic surgeon is focused exclusively on the musculoskeletal system, including bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Orthopedic residency generally lasts 5 years and encompasses some exposure to spine surgery.
Some orthopedic surgeons may choose to get fellowship-trained in spinal surgery. In this way, they may be better equipped to diagnose and treat common spinal disorders and treat deformities like kyphosis and scoliosis.
While orthopedic spine surgeons have become competent in some nerve-related spinal conditions, their primary specialty is to preserve the health of bones, joints and vertebrae.
Choosing the Best Doctor for Your Care
Undergoing any type of spinal operation is a major decision. It’s important to research your doctor’s credentials, experience, and patient reviews. After your first consultation, you should feel confident in their ability and have a good rapport. At the end of the day, you should feel you can trust your surgeon.
Given the complexity of spine surgery, it’s best to seek a consultation with a qualified Dallas neurosurgeon who has extensive training in minimally-invasive surgical techniques. Rest assured that Dr. David Barnett has performed thousands of spinal surgeries in the past 26 years and is capable of diagnosing and treating a wide range of spinal disorders and diseases. He served as chief of neurosurgery at Baylor University Medical Center for twenty years and has been ranked #1 for Top Spine Surgeons by Consumers’ Guide for the past 8 years.
To schedule your appointment with Dr. Barnett, please contact us today.