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Frequently Asked Questions

If you experience pain in the head, neck, or spine, or have an injury, your primary care physician may refer you to a neurosurgeon for evaluation.

Some of the specific conditions or disorders include: Brain tumors both benign and malignant, Pituitary Tumors, Craniosynostosis, Aneurysm, Arteriovenous Malformation, Hydrocephalus, Head Injury, Trigeminal and Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia, Hemifacial Spasm, Spinal injury, Herniated Disc, Spinal Stenosis, Spinal Cord Tumors, Peripheral Nerve Injuries, Entrapment Neuropathies, and Intracerebral Hemorrhage.

The most common causes of back pain are sprains and overexertion. Usually, you'll need to rest your back. Sometimes - though less common - physical therapy is needed. If you have intense pain accompanied by a pain shooting down your leg, then you may have a herniated disc. A disc is the cushion between each of the vertebrate in your spine. Each disc is covered by a tough, fibrous tissue which has the consistency of leather. When the covering ruptures, the inside of your disc, which is “the consistency of crab meat,” slips out and presses against nerves in your spine.

The back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles. Back pain can be caused by sprain ligaments, strain muscles; rupture disks, and irritate joints. Sports injuries or accidents can cause back pain, even basic movements-for example, picking a bag up off the floor can have painful results. In addition, arthritis, poor posture, obesity, and psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain. Back pain can also directly result from disease of the internal organs, such as kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots, or bone loss.

Kyphosis is the normal curvature of the thoracic (middle) spine. Excessive kyphosis may develop as a result of poor posture early in life. Kyphosis means the spine is bent forward. Although kyphosis typically affects women, it is found to develop in men too. An excessive form of kyphosis may cause a hump to form in the shoulder blade area of the upper back.

Lumbar disc herniation may result in low back pain and/or leg pain. It may also cause leg weakness and may very rarely affect the nerves controlling the bowel and bladder, resulting in incontinence. The pain from a disc herniation is typically higher when sitting (for example, sitting at your desk) than when lying down or standing. People with lumbar disc herniation are usually more comfortable standing than sitting. Lumbar disc herniation is a condition that more frequently affects people who are under the age of 50 years old. Therefore, it has a significant economic impact on the general population since it affects people in their prime working years.

Minimally invasive surgery utilizes small skin incisions, minimizes the damaging effects of large muscle retraction, and attempts to leave the body as naturally intact as it was prior to surgery. The goal is to achieve faster recovery, reduce post-operative pain, and leave minimal scars.

Lumbar spinal stenosis is diagnosed by a history of leg or buttock pain provoked by standing or walking and relieved by sitting or leaning against an object. Unlike disc herniation, the neurological examination typically is normal. The diagnosis of spinal stenosis is made by radiographic imaging tests (MRI, CT or myelography) these tests show nerve compression at a level and location that correlates with the patient's pain.

Hydrocephalus is a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the head because of a blockage to the flow or drainage.

The most common treatment for hydrocephalus is to insert a tube, called a shunt, between the ventricles and another part of the body to divert the excess fluid to another site where it can then be reabsorbed back into the blood stream. Shunts have valves that regulate both the direction and amount of fluid that is drained. All shunts have three parts a ventricular catheter that is inserted into the ventricles of the brain, a valve, there are several different types, and tubing that carries the fluid from the valve to the area of the body that will accept the excess fluid. The most common types of shunts are ventriculo-peritoneal or VP shunts which drain the fluid from the ventricle to the abdominal cavity. Less commonly, ventriculo-atrial shunts (VA shunts, which direct the fluid into a vein, usually in the neck or the collarbone), ventriculopleural shunts (which direct the fluid to the chest cavity around the lungs) or the ventriculo-gall bladder shunt (which directs the fluid to the gall bladder) is used.

Surgery is the main form of treatment for brain tumors that lie within the membranes covering the brain or in parts of the brain that can be removed without damaging critical neurological functions. Because a tumor will recur if any tumor cells are left behind, the surgeon's main goal is to remove the entire tumor when possible. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy generally are used as secondary or joint treatment for tumors that cannot be cured by surgery alone.

Symptoms of a brain tumor can include headaches (headaches that wake you up in the morning), seizures in a person who does not have a history of seizures, cognitive or personality changes, eye weakness, nausea or vomiting, speech disturbances, or memory loss. While these are the most common symptoms of a brain tumor, they can be an indication of other medical problems.

If you experience a sudden, severe headache —the worst headache you've ever had in your life—you should go to an Emergency Room immediately. You could have a bleeding aneurysm caused by weakened blood vessels in your brain. This is a very serious condition. A headache that appears every morning and disappears later in the day may indicate a possble brain tumor. You should first check with your primary care doctor who may then refer you to a Neurosurgeon.

It is true that sometimes we have illnesses we don't know about because they have no clear warning signs. But with brain tumors, headaches and neurological deficits, generally, there are symptoms that provide clear warning signs and require a physician office visit. It is unlikely you have a brain tumor if you have normal concentration, memory, vision, balance, and hearing; if you have not experienced a dramatic change in personality; or are not weak on one side of your body.

In general, it is not necessary to shave your entire head, although the area immediately around the incision must be shaved. If you have surgery scheduled, please feel free to consult your surgeon about this or any other question you might have.

Our surgeons operate to remove the damaged disc and leave more room for the nerves. We take out all the soft disc material that has slipped out of the covering, and about 60 percent of the disc that has not yet slipped out, ruptured or herniated from its cover.

Yes we can replace a damaged disc with an artificial disc. If you have a damaged cervical or lumbar disc, we evaluate the need for disectomy, fusion, or replacement. We offer minimally invasive disectomies for lumbar herniated discs, as well as minimally invasive fusions in select patients. In some cases, the artificial disc may be best.

The nerves that travel down the arm all originate from the spinal cord within the neck. A bone spur or disc herniation in the neck may push on the nerve where it exits from the spinal cord (the nerve root). This pressure will irritate the nerve and may lead to pain, numbness/tingling, or weakness in the distribution of that nerve. Please see radiculopathy on our Spine Education page for more information.

The nerves that travel down the leg all originate from the spinal cord and travel within the spinal column in the lower (lumbar) spine. A bone spur or disc herniation in the back may push on the nerve where it exits from the spinal canal (the nerve root). This pressure will irritate the nerve and may lead to pain, numbness/tingling, or weakness in the distribution of that nerve. Please see radiculopathy on our Spine Education page for more information.

Each of these surgical specialists has their own areas of expertise and their skill and expertise overlap in the area of spinal surgery. Both specialties require 5-7 years of residency training, followed in some cases by additional time in fellowship training. Traditionally, neurosurgeons handled spinal operations dealing with the discs and nerves, while orthopedic surgeons handled operations on the bony spine, such as spinal fusion. More recently, though, both specialties are training their spinal surgeons to perform the whole range of spinal surgery. As neurosurgeons, we still work very closely with our orthopedic colleagues. A surgeon's experience, training, and judgment in spinal surgery are more important than the sub-specialty to which he or she belongs.

While neurosurgeons perform brain surgery, they also provide the highest level of expertise in spine disorder treatment. The majority of operations performed by neurosurgeons are spine surgeries. Physicians who graduate from a neurosurgery program have usually assisted with hundreds of spine procedures. For those who go on to complete a post-graduate fellowship, they undergo a focused and intense training on the spine for an additional one to two years.

Neurosurgeons are exclusively trained to perform procedures on the entire spine, including the spinal cord and the inside lining of the spinal canal. With the spine encasing the spinal cord and nerves, many patients choose to take the extra measure of safety when undergoing spine treatment and choose a neurosurgeon.

  • Neurosurgeons complete more spinal surgery training than any other specialty.
  • Neurosurgeons are trained in treating diseases of the spine throughout a 7-year residency.
  • Neurosurgeons are the only physicians who treat the entire spine including the spinal cord.
  • Neurosurgeons spend about 80 percent of their time treating spine problems

Bring your x-rays and any other medical records you have. Your surgeon will instruct you if you need to bring any additional items.

It depends on what type of procedure you have. Your physician will provide you with that information prior to surgery.

The amount of time will depend on what type of surgery you have as well as your condition before surgery. Your physicians will review your treatment and recovery plan with you.

Recovery time depends on the kind of procedure, the patient's age, and health before the procedure. You may have some tenderness around the area of the incision. You will not be able to perform heavy lifting, exercise or activities. As with any procedure, your physician will give you specific directions.

A neurosurgeon is a physician who specializes in the treatment of injuries to, or disorders of, the head, neck, spine, and peripheral nerves within all parts of the body.

Neurosurgery is one of the longest training periods of all the medical specialties because of the extreme complexity of the nervous system and the advanced technique used in this specialty. Following college, training includes four years of medical school, a one-year internship, and a five- to seven-year neurosurgical residency. Upon completion of the residency and two years in practice, the surgeon is eligible to take the American Board of Neurological Surgery examination.

Certification by the American Board of Neurological Surgery indicates a special commitment to, and expertise in, the neurological surgery specialty. The certification is based upon the board's approval of an applicant's educational and training credentials, a review of the physician's professional practice, and the satisfactory completion of written and oral exams. All active members of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons must be board certified.