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Neurologist vs. Neurosurgeon – Who Do I Need to See?

Apr 8, 2021

Neurologist vs. Neurosurgeon – Who Do I Need to SeeNeurology is a medical specialty that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that impact the brain and nervous system, including the spinal cord, blood vessels, muscles, and nerves. When you are in need of these kinds of services, there are two doctors you may be sent to- a neurologist and a neurosurgeon. Both of these professionals treat the nervous system, but what is the difference? Before you visit a neurosurgeon or neurologist in Atlanta, it is important to understand what specialist is best for your case.

What Is a Neurologist?

By the definition of the American Academy of Neurology, a neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of brain and nervous system conditions. These doctors use a series of diagnostic tests like electroencephalograms (EEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computer-assisted tomography (CAT) scans in order to identify potential neurological conditions. A neurologist may treat this category generally or focus on specific areas like learning disabilities, neurodevelopmental disorders, pain management, or other chronic conditions.

Many neurological conditions require ongoing, potentially even lifelong, care. This may include chronic headaches, sleep disorders, tremors, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. If you or a loved one suffer from these conditions, a neurologist will be your primary care provider, though they may work with other providers to manage your overall health.

A neurologist in Atlanta, like any medical doctor, undergoes four years of pre-medical education at college or university, four years of medical school, one year of internship, and at least three years of specialty training in a neurology residence program. If they have a further specialty, they may undergo additional training as well.

What Is a Neurosurgeon?

The American College of Surgeons defines a neurosurgeon as a medical doctor who diagnoses and treats conditions of the brain, spine, and nervous system using both surgical and nonsurgical treatments, depending on the specifics of the injury or illness. This extensive knowledge of neurological diseases means neurosurgeons are often requested by other medical professionals for consultation.

A neurosurgeon will most likely be brought in when a patient has undergone some sort of trauma to the brain or spine, aneurysms, tumors, birth defects, or other nerve issues. Some Neurosurgeons also give you information on how to know if you have carpal tunnel syndrome and how to treat it. While they can treat conditions that do not require surgery, their primary practice usually involves surgical intervention. A neurosurgeon will likely work with you before and after surgery, but they do not usually provide ongoing care.

Neurosurgeons undergo all the same training that a neurologist does, plus a five- to seven-year residency. After that time, any will go on to do a fellowship that allows them to specialize in a certain type of surgery like spinal, pediatric, or peripheral nerve surgery.

Major Differences

While medical management has many overlapping qualities, neurologists and neurosurgeons still have major differences that are important to understand.

Neurosurgery is closely tied to neurology because they both require specialized and in-depth knowledge of the nervous system and its functions. Both fields may perform complex testing to monitor the brain and make a diagnosis, and both can perform some minimally invasive procedures when necessary.

However, neurologists cannot perform surgery. They instead focus on discovering diagnosis-specific neurological conditions that can be corrected or will require management. If a neurologist in Atlanta discovers a diagnosis that may require surgery, they will refer you to a neurosurgeon in order to remove or correct the condition or improve your outcome. That neurosurgeon will perform the procedure, monitor follow-up, and then your care will continue to be managed by a neurologist for long-term care.

Who Should I See?

In most cases, you will start by seeing a neurologist. They will be able to perform diagnostics and evaluations to determine the cause of your issues and explore less invasive options for treatment. Your neurologist will be a key member of your health team for an extended period and should have all the necessary background information. Depending on what your neurologist finds, they may refer you to a neurosurgeon they trust. The two can then work together to determine the best course of action for your recovery.

At AICA Orthopedics, our neurologists are experts in their field and can provide a fast and accurate diagnosis of any conditions causing you pain. As they develop your personalized treatment plan, they may work with neurosurgeons and other specialists to ensure you are being treated holistically. If you are looking for a neurologist in Atlanta, AICA Orthopedics offers that and more. Contact us today to meet with an expert neurologist in Atlanta!


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