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What is Neurosurgery?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Neurosurgery is a branch of the surgery discipline which focuses on the brain and spinal cord. It is an extremely advanced form of surgery, requiring many years of training, and a high level of precision and experience on the part of the surgeon. Neurosurgeons are among the minority of surgeons worldwide, and they can command very high fees for their services. People who need neurosurgery are usually forced to go to a surgical center in a major urban area, since neurosurgeons are not on call at very many hospitals.

Working with the nervous system is delicate business. A mistake in surgery could cost a life, cause brain damage, result in paralysis, or contribute to a personality change in the patient. The work requires very skilled, delicate hands, along with precision, patience, and a very coordinated surgical team. Neurosurgery uses some of the most advanced tools available to surgeons, and noted neurosurgeons are constantly developing new tools and techniques.

A neurosurgeon can address a number of issues with surgical intervention, including trauma to the central nervous system, congenital conditions, diseases, and degenerative conditions. Because the central nervous system is so critical to human life, neurosurgeons are often asked to assess patients who come into the emergency room with injuries which may involve the central nervous system, especially if a brain hemorrhage is suspected. The surgeon may need to act quickly to stabilize the patient so that his or her other issues can be treated.

Some of the techniques involved in neurosurgery are truly astounding to watch. Neurosurgeons have developed innovative techniques for treating conditions like Parkinson's disease, and they are capable of excising very precise areas of the brain, stimulating the brain with specialized probes, and inserting electrodes for various medical treatments. They can treat a wide variety of neurological disorders, improving quality of life for their patients in addition to saving lives.

Someone interested in a career in neurosurgery should be prepared for a lot of school. This surgical specialty requires the standard four years of medical school, followed by a surgical residency which can last for seven years or more as the student learns the fundamentals of surgery and then proceeds to advanced neurosurgery. Because techniques and approaches in this surgical field are constantly changing, neurosurgeons also need to participate in a great deal of continuing education to make sure that they remain at the forefront of the field.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By JaneAir — On Oct 05, 2011

@starrynight - I think I saw that episode. I think neurosurgery is fun to watch on television, but I can't imagine ever doing it.

Although, one would hope that by the time a neurosurgeon actually gets to do surgery they are well trained. From what the article says, I don't think anyone gets to do surgery on a brain before they are ready. I mean, seven years of residency, after going to school for eight years! That's a lot.

By starrynight — On Oct 04, 2011

Like everyone else who has ever seen Grey's Anatomy, every time I hear the word "neurosurgeon" I think of McDreamy, also known as Dr. Shepherd. And of course all the crazy surgical procedures they do on that show.

I was actually reminded of one episode when I was reading through the article. They do brain surgery on this guy who loves Christmas. His whole family is there with him before the surgery and they are all decked out in Christmas clothes and singing carols. When he wakes up from the surgery, he's a total grouch and hates Christmas!

They end up going back in to fix him, but I know in real life sometimes you can't do that. I seriously don't think I could sleep at night if I had that much responsibility. It's people brains for crying out loud!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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