Traditionally, neurosurgeons were the doctors of choice for spinal surgery. In the last several decades, some orthopedic surgeons have also been treating spinal conditions.
However, while orthopedists handle musculoskeletal conditions and may have special training in spine treatment, the focus of neurosurgeons is to treat the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. And whereas the field of orthopedics is very generalized, neurosurgery is very specialized.
Let’s explore the differences and similarities between these two types of physicians.
How Is Neurosurgery Different from Orthopedics?
Neurosurgeons practice almost exclusively on the spine and the brain. Neurosurgeons specialize in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous systems, treating health issues such as:
- Congenital anomalies
- Traumatic injury
- Vascular (blood vessel) disorders
- Infections of the spine and brain
- Degenerative diseases of the spine
A neurosurgeon’s entire scope of study revolves around the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system, and the proper surgical treatment of conditions that affect these systems.
Orthopedists, on the other hand, spend their time divided between shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, hip, knee, foot, ankle, and spine treatment. And most orthopedists perform much less surgery than a neurosurgeon.
In the past, orthopedic surgeons performed more surgeries on spinal deformities like scoliosis and neurosurgeons did more intradural surgery (surgery inside the spinal dura). Only a board-certified neurosurgeon is permitted to operate inside the dura mater of the spinal cord or on the brain.
The field of orthopedics originally focused on treating children born with physical deformities, thus the root word “ped,” which means “child.” Orthopedics has expanded to adults and now largely serves the senior community and athletes – including sports medicine. Orthopedic surgeons are the physicians who typically perform hip and knee replacement surgeries.
How Are Orthopedists and Neurosurgeons Similar?
In the last several decades, many doctors have been trained extensively in spinal surgery – including both neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons. Many orthopedists have sought additional fellowship training in spinal surgery – thus blurring the divide that previously existed with regard to the spine.
Due to the expanding nature of the field of orthopedic medicine, more and more orthopedic surgeons are becoming capable of performing certain (not all) types of spinal surgeries. However, the most important criteria in finding a spine surgeon is whether the surgeon actually specializes in spinal surgery.
Experienced Neurosurgeons in Colorado Springs
While an orthopedic surgeon is a better choice if you need a new hip, knee, shoulder, or have a severely broken bone, anything related to the spine is best treated by a skilled neurosurgeon.
If you have a back issue or severe back pain, seek out a neurosurgeon for their evaluation and diagnosis for proper treatment. The spine allows humans to sense touch and move – don’t risk your health and mobility by allowing anyone other than a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery to treat it.
The neurosurgeons at Front Range Neurosurgery perform spine surgery on a regular basis, and we have decades of success serving patients. Call us today at (303) 790-1800, or fill out our appointment request form now. We look forward to helping you enjoy a more pain-free, active lifestyle once again.