When Do You Need to See a Neurosurgeon? What Type of Treatment Can You Expect?
If you suffer an injury in a motor vehicle accident, on the playing field, or in a fall, and you experience health issues beyond the knowledge and expertise of your primary care physician, you can expect a referral to a specialist. When your injuries involve your neck and spine, you may be sent to a neurosurgeon. What does a neurosurgeon do? What types of treatment can you expect from such a specialist?
Reasons to Seek Treatment from a Neurosurgeon
A neurosurgeon is a medical specialist, with advanced medical training, who focuses on conditions affecting the central nervous system, particularly the brain, the spinal cord, and the nerves. In addition to examining your skull and brain, a neurosurgeon can diagnose and treat conditions that involve spinal discs, vertebrae, blood vessels, and protective tissue in your spinal cord. They typically have specialized training that allows them to perform a wide range of surgical procedures, including open surgery, endoscopic surgery, endovascular surgery, radiosurgery, microsurgery, and various types of minimally invasive surgery.
However, a neurosurgery practice usually is not limited to surgical procedures. Neurosurgeons often employ a full range of diagnostic approaches, and they can prescribe or administer non-operative forms of treatment, including medication, steroid or other types of injections, and physical therapy. They also may perform chronic pain intervention procedures.
What Conditions Might a Neurosurgeon Treat?
Neurosurgical procedures are effective to treat a wide range of medical conditions, including:
- Chronic neck and back pain, including pinched nerves and herniated or bulging discs
- Traumatic injury to the neck, spine, or head, including injuries receivced in car accidents, falls, and athletic competitions
- Neurovascular events, such as stroke, aneurysm, or internal bleeding
- Degenerative diseases or spinal disorders, such as spinal osteoarthritis and sciatica
- Spinal deformities
- Tumors on the neck, spine, skull, or brain
- Debilitating diseases, such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Congenital spine or brain conditions, such as spina bifida
The specific types of operations commonly conducted by neurosurgeons include
- Repair of aneurysm, or bulge, in the wall of an artery
- Excision or removal of a tumor
- Repair or removal of a blood clot
- Cessation of brain bleeds
- Insertion of a shunt to drain fluid or redirect it from one part of the body to another
- Response to brain trauma or injury, often stemming from motor vehicle accidents, falls, or high-impact sports
As part of the diagnostic process, a neurosurgeon may employ a number of technologies to assess your symptoms and condition, including:
- CT, or computed tomography, scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Magnetoencephalography (MEG)
- Positron emission tomography, or PET scan
- Electroencephalograms (EEG)