Neurosurgery has advanced dramatically since the 1970s. Modern neurosurgeons have a vast arsenal of diagnostic and treatment modalities that were not available just a few short decades ago. These advancements have also led to greater specialization within neurosurgery, as neurosurgeons must be trained in the use of these new diagnostic and treatment tools. Neurosurgeons typically spend a significant amount of time examining and diagnosing patients before actually performing procedures.
Neuro-oncology is one of the most common neurosurgical specialties. Neuro-oncology as a practice includes radiation and chemotherapy treatments for tumors, but neurosurgeons typically focus on the surgical excision of tumors of the brain and spine. Neurosurgeons often perform tumor excisions as part of team, with one or more surgeons as well as an anesthesiologist and operating room support staff participating.
Cerebrovascular surgery is another procedure frequently performed by neurosurgeons. Damaged blood vessels in the brain can lead to strokes or other neurological problems, so neurosurgeons often have to perform vessel repair procedures such as coiling or clipping. Aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations, cavernomas and occlusive vascular diseases are the most common conditions treated by cerebrovascular surgeons.
Neurosurgeons also diagnose and treat spine-related conditions. Patients typically consult with a neurosurgeon regarding their back problems after having exhausted other alternatives such as physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture or medications. Common spine and back procedures performed by neurosurgeons include laminectomy, spinal fusion, foraminotomy, disectomy and disk replacement.
Some neurosurgeons specialize in treating patients with severe epilepsy. Patients typically come to neurosurgeons for surgical solutions for their epilepsy after having tried medications and other alternatives. The two most common surgeries for epilepsy involve either implanting one or more electrodes in the brain, or excising certain areas of the brain that are causing the epileptic seizures.
Neurosurgeons who treat infants and children are called pediatric neurosurgeons. Pediatric neurosurgeons typically complete an additional one- to two-year fellowship after finishing their general neurosurgery residency. Common procedures undertaken by pediatric neurosurgeons include surgeries to correct head and spine deformities, congenital conditions and injuries of the brain, spine or nervous system, gait abnormalities and birth injuries.
- American College of Surgeons: Neurological Surgery
- Women in Neurosurgery: So You Want to Be a Neurosurgeon
- HealthyChildren.org: What Is a Pediatric Neurosurgeon?
- Wayne State University School of Medicine: Cerebrovascular Surgery
- Des Moines Register: Health Professional Profile: Pediatric Neurosurgeon Fills Important Role
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