Spine Surgeons in Frisco, Texas – Difference Between Orthopedic Surgeons and Neurosurgeons
Dr. Scott Kutz and the team at Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery of Texas are the leading spine clinic and spine surgeon in Frisco, Texas. Dr. Kutz is a board-certified neurosurgeon who has helped many people get their lives back using his innovative, minimally invasive surgical techniques.
If you or someone you love is considering spine surgery, you might be wondering if an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon would be better for the procedure. For most forms of spine surgery, both may be considered. There are many similarities and differences between neurosurgeons and specially trained orthopedic surgeons. Researching and learning about these two specialties will help better prepare you when trying to choose the right type of surgeon for your procedure.
Both Can Specialize in Spine Surgery
Several years ago, spine surgeries were primarily performed by neurosurgeons. However, spine surgery has evolved so much in the last 20 to 25 years that now, both neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons can have spine surgery as a specialization. Nowadays, both types of surgeons are equally experienced in performing most routine spine procedures. With both surgeons, there can be a subspecialty or more knowledge and training about a specific focus.
Neurosurgeons can either be Medical Doctors (MD) or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). They must fulfill a five to six-year residency that was focused on the surgical treatment of neurological ailments. Neurosurgeons are educated in the identification and treatment of conditions involving the brain, nerves, spine and spinal cord, and intracranial and intraspinal vasculature. Simply put, their focus is the nervous system. Typically, neurosurgeons are primarily concerned with diagnosis and treatment. They usually work in hospitals and have minimal contact with patients after they’re discharged. Patients are usually moved to another facility to partake in rehabilitation therapy after surgery is completed; they are no longer under the surgeon’s direct care. Some neurosurgeons specialize in brain surgery exclusively, some specialize in spine surgery, and some surgeons split their practice between the two.
Like neurosurgeons, an orthopedic surgeon can also be an MD or a DO who has finished a five-year surgical residency that was focused on treating musculoskeletal conditions. Orthopedists are trained to handle practically all bone and joint disorders like trauma, arthritis, sport-related injuries, hand injuries and deformities, bone tumors, spinal disorders, and total joint replacement. They typically stay with patients through prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. Patients usually remain under the care of the surgeon after treatment by attending follow-up visits to track progress. They work in hospitals, outpatient surgery facilities, and practices.
Some orthopedic surgeons exclusively focus their practice on spine surgery, some focus on other joints (knees, hips, shoulders, etc.), and some surgeons split their practice between two or more specialties.
Both types of surgeons may learn the skills needed to perform most kinds of spine surgery if they complete the proper fellowship training. In some instances, however, one specialty can be more qualified for certain surgeries. Two examples of this are:
- Neurosurgeons are typically more qualified to conduct intradural surgeries, which are surgeries done inside the dura in the spine, like with thecal sac tumors. The dura is a thin layer of tissue that lies between the spinal cord (nerves) and the spine (bone). Its purpose is to cover and protect the spinal cord. Thecal sac tumors form inside the sac that houses the nerves of the spine.
- Orthopedic surgeons are usually more qualified to perform spinal deformity surgeries like in the case of scoliosis, which is where the spine curves sideways.
Both neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons may continue their training after residency by attending a spine fellowship program. For surgeons that have successfully finished their residencies and have earned or are eligible for board certification, these programs provide further specialized training.
Questions to Ask a Surgeon
Incorrect diagnoses are the number one reason back surgeries fail. Choosing an experienced spine surgeon will increase your chance of getting the correct diagnosis and treatment. In most cases, the question isn’t which type of surgeon to use it’s, “What does this surgeon specialize in?”
A surgeon with appropriate qualifications and good results won’t be bothered by you asking questions like:
- Why do I need this specific procedure?
- Are there any other treatment options I should try first, or is this operation my best option?
- What are some risks and complications of this surgery?
- How much of your medical practice is focused on this particular surgery?
- How many of these particular surgeries do you perform each year?
- What are your typical outcomes with this surgery?
While deciding which type of surgeon is best for the treatment you need, it’s important to remember the key difference between the two- neurosurgeons are trained to treat conditions affecting the nerves of the brain and spine, and an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery is trained in conditions of the bones in the spine.
If you’ve decided you need the best neurosurgeon, contact Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery of Texas to see if Dr. Kutz is the right spine surgeon in Frisco TX for you.