What’s the Difference Between a Spine Surgeon and a Neurosurgeon?


Trust us when we tell you that you’re not the only person confused about this. With so many health care professionals all over Brisbane, being confused about which one can help with such a delicate matter that is one’s spine is serious.

The human spine is a body’s central support structure that provides several important functions including protecting the spinal cord and nerves. As such, any injury to the spine can cause serious problems and can even have a fatal outcome.

This is the biggest reason why patients should know which type of surgeon can help them with spine-related injuries and problems. Orthopedic spine surgeons and neurosurgeons are the two types of specialists who can perform spinal surgeries.

If you’re looking for a trustworthy spine surgeon in Brisbane, you should know which one you should reach out to.

Let’s find out more about the differences between orthopedic spine surgeons and neurosurgeons.

Orthopedic spine surgeon

An orthopedic spine surgeon is a doctor of osteopathic medicine that has a 5-year residency in orthopedic surgery. This residency provides orthopedic doctors with knowledge of the bones, ligaments, joints, muscles, and so on.

Orthopedic surgeons are also responsible for diagnosing, assessing, and treating patients with spine-related injuries such as spinal deformities, scoliosis, neck pain, spinal stenosis, and similar problems.

Orthopedic surgeons focus more on shoulders, elbows, knees, feet, ankles, and so on – this means that they are more focused on joint trauma or surgery or sports medicine. However, with completed additional training, they can perform spine surgery.

But keep in mind that orthopedic spine surgeons are still the only ones who treat pediatric and adult scoliosis and other spinal deformities.


A neurosurgeon is also a doctor of osteopathic medicine who specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central peripheral nervous system.

Simply put, a neurosurgeon is a medical specialist who deals with the spine, brain, and nerves exclusively. They treat issues such as stroke, traumatic injury, and infectious and degenerative diseases of the spine and brain.

Neurosurgeons divide their practice between spine and brain surgery. And it must be added that neurosurgeons tend to be more qualified to perform surgery inside of the dura in the spinal cord.

How are orthopedic spine surgeons and neurosurgeons different?

The main difference between these two kinds of medical specialists is in their training. An orthopedic surgeon is responsible for treating the spine, while a neurosurgeon specializes in treatments of both the spine and brain.

Before, neurosurgeons were the only medical specialist responsible for spine surgery. Today, however, more and more orthopedic surgeons are seeking out additional fellowship training in spinal surgery. This means that the lines between orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons are blurring when it comes to spine surgery.

We can even go ahead and say that these two types of medical specialists no longer see each other as competitors but as colleagues who share the same interests.

Spine fellowship

A spine fellowship program is considered to be an extended training program that both orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons can take part in after their residency. The point of the fellowship is to improve surgical skills and provide further training for both of these types of medical specialists.

The fellowship training is voluntary and lasts a year. Not all surgeons will be fellowship-trained, however, those who are, have extra training and are more specialized. For you as a patient, choosing a fellowship-trained surgeon means more chances for a successful outcome.

How to choose between these two specialists?

Today, thankfully, you can seek consultation with both of these doctors, you don’t have to settle for just one of these specialists. And since both these specialists do most types of spine surgeries, the decision lies solely with you.

You can choose a trustworthy orthopedic spine surgeon, then go for a consultation where they will provide information about your diagnosis, treatment options, and whether or not surgery is necessary.

At the same time, you can find a neurosurgeon who will tell you their opinion on the same matter. That way you will get two opinions from two different specialists, and from there on you’ll decide which of them is the better option for you.

What we can take from this, is that both the orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons perform spine surgery. The main difference is in their training, but for the typical spine surgeries, both these medical specialists are equally qualified.

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