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Should I see a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon?

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Updated November 19, 2006

Question: Should I see a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon?
Orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons both treat spine disorders. Patients often wonder if they should see one type of a doctor versus another.
Answer: Both neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons are trained to manage common back and neck conditions. These problems may include, but are not limited to: If I need surgery should it be done by a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon?
Both types of doctors can perform spinal surgery. Traditionally, orthopedic surgeons performed procedures where instrumentation (metal implants) were used, but presently both neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons can be trained in all types of spinal surgery.

When determining who should manage, and possibly perform surgery, on your spinal condition, it is less important to consider neurosurgeon versus orthopedic surgeon, and more important to consider factors such as:

  • How many surgeries does your doctor perform on your condition?
  • How many are done at your local hospital?
  • What is the complication rate? What are the common complications?
  • What is the rehabilitation after surgery?
  • What are the alternatives to surgery?
  • Did your surgeon receive sub-specialty training in spine surgery?
Both neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons can be qualified to perform all types of spinal surgery--you need to investigate your own doctor's experience in managing your particular condition.

If you have questions about the management of your condition, do not hesitate to get a second opinion. Deciding if you need spinal surgery is a difficult decision, and your should definitely consider all of your options.

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  5. Finding the Cause
  6. Should I see a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon?

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