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Neurosurgeon or Orthopedic Surgeon for Spine Surgery?

If a patient is considering spine surgery, many turn automatically toward an orthopedic surgeon. This association seems to primarily be due to the concept of the bony spinal column. People think about bones, and then they tend to think about orthopedic surgeons. The reality is that neurosurgeons are also a great choice when it comes to spinal surgery here in Florida.

Neurosurgeon performing spine surgery in Florida

Today, we will look at the reasons why…

How Spine Surgery Has Changed Over The Last 25 Years

Historically speaking, neurosurgeons were primarily the ones responsible for performing spinal surgeries in Florida. That has changed over the past 20 to 25 years as spinal surgery technology has evolved. Now, neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons are both well equipped to perform the typical spinal operations we see in Florida.

In 2019, board certified orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons are both highly qualified medical professionals. Pinpointing a difference really comes down to training. Neurosurgeon undergoes extensive training to treat conditions of the brain and spine, while an orthopedic spine surgeon specializes in treating the spine.

Neurosurgeons in Florida

Our Florida neurosurgeons learn how to diagnose and treat (both surgically and non-surgically) spinal disorders during their residency. This is an extensive training program that typically takes 6 years to complete. By the time they finish their residency, a neurosurgeon has already helped perform countless spinal procedures.

A lot of people that schedule a consultation with Florida Surgery Consultants are looking for a orthopedic surgeon initially for their spine surgery. Many have the misconception that neurosurgeons are only brain doctors. The reality is that neurosurgeons in Florida perform more spine surgeries over their careers then brain surgeries.

Note that neurosurgeons are primarily concerned with diagnosis and treatment. Following a spine surgery, their patient is then moved on to a recommended rehabilitation program and won’t be under the direct care of the neurosurgeon anymore. Neurosurgeons may have traditionally worked in hospitals, but now you’re seeing more on neurosurgeons working in specialized surgical centers like ours in Florida.

Orthopaedic Surgeons in Florida

All orthopedic surgeons get experience assisting with spine surgeries during their 4 to 5 year training program. The key thing to note here is that not many orthopedic residencies expose students to the amount of spine surgeries that neurosurgery residents are exposed to. In some programs, The focus is on spinal trauma, joint surgery and sports medicine.

Similar to neurosurgeons, an orthopedic surgeon wishing to specialize in spinal surgery can pursue a post-residency fellowship in spine surgery.
Neurosurgeon vs. Orthopaedic Surgeons
While things may have been different 20 to 25 years ago, there are now a significant number of orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons who are specializing in spine surgery in Florida. These medical professionals are even starting to refer to each other as “spine surgeons”, dropping any distinction between them because the difference has become so small.

Our neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons are very skilled in treating the following spinal conditions and more:

  • Disc herniations
  • Disc degeneration
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Fractures of the spine
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Scoliosis

Neurosurgeons are now learning about bone physiology, bone growth and fusions. While orthopedic surgeons are learning more about specific neural structures that can play critical roles in these conditions. Hence, a neurosurgeon has been trained to perform spine surgeries during their residency whereas orthopedic spine surgeons have to undergo additional post-graduate training.

Are There Any Discernible Differences Anymore?

Yes, there are still some distinct differences between neurosurgeon and Orthopedic spine surgeons in Florida. The first being that neurosurgeons are trained during residency to perform specific procedures inside lining of the spinal canal (known as the dura).

The reason this is worth noting, is because there are a whole host of spinal conditions that can only be diagnosed by a neurosurgeon due to this training. These include:

  • Spinal cord tumors
  • Syringomyelia
  • Arachnoid cysts
  • Chiari malformation
  • Spinal cord arteriovenous malformation
  • Tethered spinal cords
  • Lipomyelomeningocele
  • Spina bifida or myelomeningocele
  • Tumors at the junction of the base of the skull
  • Nerve root tumors

On the other hand, pediatric and adult scoliosis along with other spinal deformities are still primarily treated by orthopedic spine surgeons in Florida

The Verdict?

Patients in Florida have the benefit of choice. They can schedule a surgical consultation with either in their surgeon or an orthopedic surgeon knowing full well that they are extremely skilled and experienced at performing spine surgery.

Please don’t hesitate to ask your surgeon about their background and training. You can also ask them about their experience with the operation that has been recommended for your spinal condition. Our spinal surgeons value getting an opportunity to educate their patients And making sure that they are confident in the recommended course of treatment.

One last thing worth noting is that neurosurgeons are more highly recommended for complex spine surgeries and minimally-invasive surgeries. Where an orthopedic surgeon has expertise with the musculoskeletal system, degenerative spine conditions and symptoms are often caused by a compressed spinal cord and nerves. Neurosurgeons are recommended more often, because they are specifically trained in how to to alleviate that compression without affecting the surrounding neural structures.

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