Neurosurgery is the branch of medicine and surgery that specializes in the treatment of diseases and disorders of the nervous system. It includes the central nervous system like the brain and spinal cord, a peripheral nervous system like the spinal and peripheral nerves, the autonomic nervous system, and their supporting structures and vascular supply. Contrary to what the name implies, neurosurgery includes not only operative treatment but also the non-operative treatment of these systems like prevention and diagnosis of diseases. In simple words, neurosurgery is the branch of medicine that deals with diseases and disorders of the brain and the spinal cord.
Types of neurosurgery
The term neurosurgery encompasses a vast area; as a result, it is further sub-divided into different specialties based on characteristics like area of treatment or type of treatment. The different types of neurosurgery are pediatric, spinal, skull base, oncology, pain, neurotrauma/critical care and endovascular neurosurgeries.
Common neurosurgery procedures
Sometimes, brain swelling may happen due to stroke or traumatic brain injury. In such cases, the brain swells and compresses against the skull, often killing the person. Craniectomy is a procedure in which part of the skull is surgically opened to give the brain a space to swell up, giving a high chance of survival to the person.
When medication produces no positive results in the treatment of an epileptic person, neurosurgery offers some chance of doing so. In this procedure, part of the brain responsible for causing the condition is removed.
Anterior cervical discectomy
The procedure is used to treat severe neck pain caused by herniated discs.
Microdiscectomy is one of the most popular procedures in neurosurgery. It is used to treat severe pain caused by herniated discs in the lumbar area.
Laminectomy or decompressive surgery
Similar in theory to the anterior cervical discectomy, this procedure is used to remove a part of the vertebral bone called lamina that is causing severe back pain.
Other common neurosurgery procedures include chiari decompression, lumbar puncture, spinal fusion, ventriculostomy, and ventricular shunt.
One important factor to consider when deciding to go for these procedures is that there is always a high risk of causing further damage to the nerves and of infecting the system, which may lead to paralysis. It would be important to make the final decision keeping this in mind.
Career in neurosurgery
Due to the high stakes involved in neurosurgery, not everyone can become a neurosurgeon. Entry into the specialty may be different in various countries. For example, in the UK, the Neurosurgical National Selection Board conducts the selection process, while in the United States, medical students apply for a residency program in neurosurgery through the National Residency Matching Program. The selection process usually includes interviews, problem-solving, image interpretation, clinical scenario management, communication, and practical skills assessment.
Training to become a neurosurgeon is considered to be the most rigorous and the toughest among all fields of medicine and usually takes up to eight years to complete.
Neurosurgery is one of the most complicated fields of medicine and requires extra care and ability in a person interested in becoming an expert in the field. It is also a very rewarding field often with great potential in treating and improving the lives of patients who have exhausted their hopes in other fields of medicine. The rate of advancement in neurosurgery is also high and contributes to keeping the hopes of many people with debilitating illnesses alive.