Should you see a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon for spine surgery?

This is a common question and the answer very much depends on your specific condition. Both orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons perform surgery on the spine but – simplistically – a neurosurgeon operates on the nervous system while an orthopaedic surgeon will treat the bones and joints.

However, many spinal conditions will involve both the spinal cord, or spinal nerve, and the vertebrae or bones in the spine and members of either discipline will treat many of the same conditions.

A neurosurgeon’s training will typically take eight years and they will spend a large proportion of this period focused on brain and spinal surgery. An orthopaedic surgeon’s training is of a similar length of time but will cover the whole musculoskeletal frame and involve performing joint surgery on the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and foot, as well as the spine. Most orthopaedic surgeons will then specialise in a specific area and will undergo further training.

Key to choosing your surgeon should be researching their experience and expertise, quality of their outcomes, use of the most advanced techniques and, most importantly, whether you feel comfortable and trust your surgeon.