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When Should You See a Neurologist Versus a Neurosurgeon

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What is neurology?

Neurology is the branch of medicine dedicated to understanding and treating the nervous system, which is at the heart of everything our bodies do. It's about determining neurological disorders, illnesses that can affect how we think, move, and feel because they impact our brain and spinal cord—the command center for our entire body.

The nervous system is complicated and vital, controlling everything from our heartbeat to our ability to read. It's divided into two main parts: the brain, our decision-maker, and the spinal cord, which acts as a superhighway sending messages between the brain and the body.

What’s the difference between a neurologist and neurosurgeon?

Navigating the complexities of neurological health requires understanding the medical professionals dedicated to your care. It’s important to distinguish between the roles of a neurologist and a neurosurgeon to ensure you're seeking the right expertise for your specific needs. This knowledge empowers you and your journey toward better health.

Neurologists are the detectives of the nervous system. They use their knowledge and noninvasive tools, such as brain scans and neurological exams, to diagnose and manage conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord and nerves.

On the other hand, neurosurgeons are skilled architects, often stepping in when surgical intervention becomes necessary. Their expertise lies not only in surgery but also in diagnosing and treating neurological conditions with both surgical and non-surgical methods. When conditions like brain tumors, spinal injuries or aneurysms require immediate action, neurosurgeons lead the charge. Their hands guide the most advanced surgical techniques to repair, remove or relieve neurological issues, offering hope and solutions in moments of urgency.

What is the role of a neurologist?

Neurologists focus on discovering and diagnosing specific neurological conditions that can be corrected or managed with medications or other therapies. Neurologists also perform evaluations and treatments that require close management. They also treat diseases and conditions of the brain and the nervous system but don’t perform invasive surgeries. Neurologists are trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions that include but are not limited to:

  • Neuromuscular disorders such as muscular dystrophy, myasthenia gravis and neuropathy.
  • Headaches, tension-type headaches, and migraines
  • Movement disorders, include tremors, Parkinson's disease, restless leg syndrome and dystonia.
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, cerebral palsy and attention deficits

Neurologists perform different tests and procedures to arrive at a specific diagnosis and manage neurological conditions. The neurologist may order testing, including MRI or CT imaging, electroencephalograms (EEG), electromyography (EMG), and nerve condition studies. Depending on the findings, neurologists will consult other healthcare professionals to assist with care management. Neurologists work closely with speech therapists, neurosurgeons and other care team members to appropriately manage neurological conditions.

What is the role of a neurosurgeon?

A neurosurgeon's focus is performing surgeries on the brain or the spinal cord. The neurologist generally is not able to do so. Neurosurgery is a strategic skill set. However, neurosurgeons use a combination of surgical and non-surgical procedures. Neurosurgeons commonly perform procedures to treat a wide range of conditions that include but are not limited to:

In conclusion, the approach to neurological care is built on a solid partnership between neurologists and neurosurgeons, each playing a necessary role in patient treatment. Neurologists are experts in diagnosing and managing conditions without surgery, using medications and other non-invasive methods.

Neurosurgeons, on the other hand, are skilled in both surgical and non-surgical treatments, especially in emergencies like strokes or aneurysms, where they can make critical, life-saving decisions.

Patients usually start their journey with a neurologist, but in urgent cases, quick and effective collaboration between neurology and neurosurgery ensures better outcomes. This teamwork is important in emergencies.

Schedule an appointment with LaToya Cameron, NP.

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