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Neurologist Vs. Neurosurgeon

Tilottama Chatterjee
Neurologist vs. Neurosurgeon, what is the difference? Go through this story to get a clear understanding of why these two specializations in medicine are separate entities.
Whether it's idle curiosity that's making you wonder about the difference between a neurologist and a neurosurgeon, or a medical condition that you need to get diagnosed, understanding who you need to see when, is an important consideration. The job of a neurologist is different from that of a neurosurgeon, although both are specialists in neurology or the study of disorders of the nervous system. Both neurologists and neurosurgeons are physicians, but a neurosurgeon performs surgery, while a neurologist does not.
In this following story, we will take you through the job descriptions of both these professions, so that it gives you a clearer picture of the difference between neurology vs neurosurgery.


Responsibilities and Duties

A neurologist is responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the nervous system. He is also authorized to prescribe medication and administer treatment for a patient suffering from a neurological disorder.
It is also the neurologist's responsibility to obtain the medical history of the patient, and to ask for the administration of medical tests to ascertain the cause of a disorder.  A neurologist will most frequently ask for a CAT Scan or an MRI to understand the cause of a patient's complaint.
Although it's not unusual for him to ask for various other tests including pathological ones to arrive at a conclusion. In some cases, the patient may be referred to a neurosurgeon by a neurologist, if he feels the intervention of surgery will be beneficial.
Conditions Dealt with

Some of the conditions that a neurologist will deal with are listed below:
  • Seizures
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Headaches
  • Peripheral nerve numbness
A neurologist may also choose to specialize in the treatment of child neurological disorders; such a physician is referred to as a pediatric neurologist.

Educational Qualifications of a Neurologist

To practice in the United States and Canada, a neurologist must finish a four-year under-graduation course in science, four years in medical school, pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), and thereafter take up an internship or residency in neurology that lasts for at least three years.
Upon completion of residency, a neurologist can also choose to sub-specialize in a fellowship program in some of the following fields:
  • Vascular neurology
  • Clinical neurophysiology
  • Pain management
  • Epilepsy
  • Interventional neurology
Once that is done, he can consider applying for a certification from The American Board of Psychology and Neurology (ABPN).


Responsibilities and Duties

A neurosurgeon is responsible for the treatment and correction of disorders of the nervous system through surgery. Neurosurgeons are highly skilled specialists and can be called upon to perform surgical procedures on such delicate parts of the body as the brain, spine and individual nerves.

Conditions Dealt with

The following are some of the medical conditions treated by neurosurgeons:
  • Trauma to the head, spinal cord or peripheral nerves
  • Brain tumors, and tumors of the spinal cord
  • Cerebral hemorrhages
  • Peripheral neuropathy (for example, carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Spinal disc herniation

Educational Qualifications of a Neurosurgeon

To qualify as a neurosurgeon, you must complete four years of undergraduation and four years of medical school, before applying to a neurosurgery residency program, which will last for a minimum of 7 years. Much like a neurologist, a neurosurgeon can also choose to specialize in a particular field, some of which are listed below:
  • Pediatric neurosurgery - Specialization in surgery to treat disorders of the nervous system in children
  • Neuro-oncology - The treatment of cancerous disorders of the nervous system
  • Interventional neuroradiology - A relatively recent sub specialization dealing with minimally invasive surgery for the head, neck and spine, using image-based techniques
  • Neurovascular surgery - Management and surgery of stroke and cerebral disorders
As doctors, whether neurologists, neurosurgeons, or any other kind of physicians in medical jobs, work hours are long and stress levels are high. Not only is this a profession requiring many years of study to qualify, it's also one which requires continuous learning, to stay in touch with the latest breakthroughs in techniques, medication, and treatment.
Doctors are famous for being 'on call' 24x7 and it takes a special kind of dedication to be able to devote your entire life for the betterment of others. Not for nothing is medicine known as one of the most noble professions.
Medicine is a profession that requires much skill and study, and both neurologists and neurosurgeons do their bit in treating neurological disorders.