Neurosurgery and Spinal Cord Tumors
Neurosurgeons have extensive training in treating spinal cord tumors. Plus, they are the only doctors trained to treat tumors that arise inside the spinal cord.
By Krisha McCoy
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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A neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon: Who is best suited to remove a tumor from the spinal cord? A neurosurgeon has gone through extensive training in how to treat problems of the spinal cord, including spinal cord tumors. They are also the only doctors who are trained to treat tumors that arise inside the spinal cord.
Orthopedic surgeons are trained to perform surgeries to treat many types of spinal conditions, such as spinal deformities, ruptured disks in the spine, scoliosis, and bone tumors of the spine. But a neurosurgeon has the extensive training that is required to perform surgery on tumors within the soft tissues of the spinal cord.
Both of these highly trained specialists can further their training to become "spine surgeons," surgeons who are specially trained to operate on the spine. And neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons may work together on certain surgeries involving the spine.
Spine Surgery: Orthopedic Surgeons
Orthopedic surgeons specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions of the musculoskeletal system, which includes:
To become an orthopedic surgeon, an individual must complete four years at a college or university, four years at a medical school, one year of a general surgery internship, and four years of orthopedic residency. Then the person becomes board certified by undergoing an intensive peer-review process, and passing oral and written examinations given by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.
Orthopedic surgeons who want to become spine specialists can also participate in a spine fellowship, lasting a year or more, where they receive additional training in spine surgery techniques.
Spine Surgery: Neurosurgeons
Neurosurgeons specialize in diagnosing and treating the problems involving the nervous system. The nervous system includes the:
- Spinal cord
- Peripheral nerves
- Blood supply of the brain and spine
The spine is an integral part of the nervous system, since nerves travel from the brain through the spine to the rest of the body.
When most people think of a neurosurgeon, they usually think of someone who operates on the brain. But a neurosurgeon also specializes in treating areas outside of the brain. In fact, the overwhelming majority of surgeries that are performed by neurosurgeons involve the spine.
A neurosurgeon must undergo especially extensive training, including four years at a college or university, four years of medical school, a one year surgical internship program, and five to seven years of neurosurgical residency to gain experience by assisting in surgeries.
After residency, the individual may become board-certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. Board certification involves passing oral and written exams, a review of the neurosurgeon’s clinical and surgical skills, and recommendations of peers. Some neurosurgeons, including those that specialize in surgery of the spine, complete an additional one to two years of specialty training that focuses on spinal surgery technique.
If your treatment team suspects that you have a spinal cord tumor, they will refer you to a neurosurgeon who is experienced in spinal cord surgery.
Video: Spinal Cord Tumor (Schwannoma): Aaron’s Story
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