Orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons can treat various spinal conditions, but the two professions have different specialties. Neurosurgeons focus on the brain, nerves, and spinal cord, while orthopedic surgeons generally focus on musculoskeletal conditions. Medical issues affecting the central and peripheral nervous system, such as traumatic injury, vascular disorders, strokes, degenerative diseases or infection of the brain or spinal cord, and congenital conditions, traditionally fall under the purview of neurosurgeons.

The field of orthopedics started out treating children born with physical abnormalities and gradually expanded to conditions affecting adults. Many orthopedic surgeons perform hip and knee replacements or work in sports medicine treating athletic injuries. An orthopedic surgeon may specialize in any bone or joint disorder, including arthritis, bone tumors, hand injuries or joint replacement in the hip, knee, or shoulder.

Surgeons in both fields can address disc degeneration, spinal stenosis, herniated discs, and spine fractures. However, some types of spinal surgery are very specialized. Only board-certified neurosurgeons operate inside the brain or dura mater of the spinal cord. Operations of this nature may be necessary to treat spinal cord tumors, vascular malformations, spina bifida, cancers affecting nerve roots, or tumors located between the base of the skull and the upper spine.

Innovative spinal surgery techniques are starting to combine aspects of both neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery. Hospitals and clinics that provide brain or spinal cord surgery usually employ neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons. Spine fellowship programs are available for orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons that have already completed residencies in their chosen specialties. 

Fellowships provide additional specialized training in spinal surgery that goes beyond the already extensive training required for a board-certified surgeon. If you’re ever in need of spinal surgery, don’t hesitate to ask questions. You can ask about your surgeon’s training, experience, and field of practice. Make sure you understand the recommended surgical operation and request information on other possible options.

Dr. Nicholas Qandah is board certified in Neurosurgery and trained with some of the world’s finest neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons. He leads a team of surgeons and other medical professionals at CNY Brain and Spine Neurosurgery to treat a wide range of complex injuries and conditions of the brain and spinal cord.

Schedule an appointment at CNY Brain and Spine Neurosurgery to find out how Dr. Qandah and his team can help alleviate symptoms such as pain or limitations on your daily lifestyle or activities.