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What’s the Difference Between a Neurosurgeon and a Spine Surgeon (and a Neurologist, for that matter?!?)

At Kalra Brain & Spine, we hear many of the same questions from patients who come our way. Things like, Is a neurosurgeon the same as a neurologist? and What’s the difference between a neurosurgeon and a spine surgeon?

We love educating the community about how spine fellowship-trained neurosurgeon Dr. Ricky Kalra and his team change lives every day here at Kalra Brain & Spine. And we thought it might be useful to talk it all through with some easy-to-understand definitions thrown in. But don’t worry, there won’t be a test over the material at the end!

Similar but Not the Same

Neurosurgeons (like Dr. Kalra) are specifically trained to treat issues dealing with the nervous system. This includes the spine, spinal cord and the brain. They are specialists in both the brain and the spine, giving them a hard-to-beat understanding of how nerves interact with the rest of the body.

Regarding spinal surgery, neurosurgeons characteristically receive more intense training, hands-on preparation and focused specialization than other specialties. A neurosurgeon will offer the advanced training you need for performing microscopic, top-of-the-line spine surgeries.

Many people confuse the term neurosurgeon with the term neurologist. A neurologist is a brain specialist but not a surgeon. In other words, both neurosurgeons and neurologists specialize in the same organ, but one operates and the other does not. For patients afflicted with a brain disorder, these two specialists often work together toward a treatment plan.

So, is a Spine Surgeon a Neurosurgeon or Orthopedic Surgeon?

Full disclosure: here’s where it can get a bit confusing. But we promise it will all make sense soon!

Orthopedic surgeons specialize in the musculoskeletal system, focusing on bones, ligaments, joints and muscles. They are typically the surgeons responsible for knee surgeries, hip replacements and athletic injuries. Many orthopedic surgeons work with athletes in the field of sports medicine, treating conditions that emerge with the stress, strain and injury of athletic wear and tear on the body.

Some orthopedic surgeons do receive additional specialized training in treating conditions that afflict the spine. However, in most cases, spine surgery is performed by a neurosurgeon like Dr. Kalra. This means if you are dealing with neck and back pain that has not responded to other treatments, an experienced neurosurgeon offers you the best chance at finding the relief you need.

In a nutshell, the most significant and fundamental difference between the two types of physicians is this: orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons receive different training in different medical fields.

Let’s Talk More About that Training!

Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons receive significantly different training during the medical residency portion of their education. Neurosurgery residency typically lasts between 7-8 years, and here’s why. Neurosurgeons in residency receive daily training in both brain and spine surgeries, with about 60-70% of their time devoted to spine surgeries in particular.

Some neurosurgeons, like Dr. Kalra, pursue an additional fellowship year in order to practice more with advanced or especially complex spine surgeries. As part of his training, Dr. Kalra completed a spine surgery fellowship with training in Germany, focusing on minimally invasive approaches to the spine and complex scoliosis.

Why Kalra Brain & Spine

If you’re suffering from neck and/or back pain that is negatively affecting your life, you deserve relief. At Kalra Brain & Spine, we believe in utilizing a wide range of treatment options from pain management and physical therapies to innovative spine surgeries that have helped many patients reclaim their lives.

Another thing we want every patient we see to know is that back and neck surgeries are always a last resort. We often see individuals seeking a second (or even third!) opinion for their condition. And by seeing Dr. Kalra, you just may find a treatment you had never considered. For example, we offer artificial cervical disc replacements and other minimally invasive treatments for those who qualify. We always suggest getting a second opinion when a serious surgical solution is suggested to address a medical issue.
But even if Dr. Kalra ends up recommending surgery for your particular situation, you’ll be happy to hear that back and neck surgery is much less invasive than in the past. Learn more about our surgical treatment options (including minimally invasive procedures) here.

Conditions We Treat

At KBS, we treat every patient like the neighbor, friend and family member they are. Our collective commitment is to educate, diagnose, treat and help each patient get out of pain and regain their life. We treat conditions of the spine, brain and peripheral nerves. See a complete list of conditions treated here.

Neurosurgical Care You Can Trust

At KBS, you’re in good hands. Dr. Kalra specializes in the most up-to-date evidence-based care. He has helped countless people get out of pain and regain their lives. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms described here or have unexplained pain (even if you’ve seen other doctors and still have not found relief), we’d love to meet with you to see if we can help. Schedule an appointment today.