Neuro surgery (or neurological surgery) is the medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of disorders which affect any portion of the nervous system including the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and extra-cranial cerebrovascular system.
Main divisions of Neuro Surgery
General Neurosurgery is the practice where a neurosurgeon handles most of the neurosurgery conditions including neuro-trauma and other neuro-emergencies such as intracranial hemorrhage. Most level 1 hospitals have this kind of practice.
Specialized branches have developed to cater special and difficult conditions. These specialized branches co-exist with general neurosurgery in more sophisticated hospitals. To practice these higher specialization within neurosurgery, additional higher fellowship training of 1–2 years is expected from the neurosurgeon. Some of these divisions of neurosurgery are:
- Vascular and Endovascular neurosurgery
- Stereotactic, Functional and Epilepsy neurosurgery
- Oncological neurosurgery
- Spine neurosurgery
- Peripheral nerve surgery
- Paediatric neurosurgery
The pathology confronted by neurosurgeons could be congenital, acquired, traumatic, infection, neoplastic or degenerative. Conditions like congenital hydrocephalus, pediatric tumors and myelomeningocele are encountered in pediatric age group. Trauma with head or spine injury and AVM bleeds are encountered in young adults. Degenerative spine disease, aneurysm bleeds and Parkinson’s disease are encountered in much older population.
The science of Neuropathology is a well-developed branch of pathology which immensely help the modern day neurosurgeon.
Neuroanesthesia is a highly developed science that is linked to neurosurgery. This branch of medicine plays a very important part in day-to-day neurosurgery.
Neuro Surgery Methods :
For a satisfactory neurosurgery outcome a reasonable pre-operative diagnosis is essential. Neuroradiology plays a key role not only in diagnosis but also in the operative phase of neurosurgery.
Neuroradiology methods are used in modern neurosurgery diagnosis and treatment. They include computer assisted imaging computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and the stereotactic radiosurgery. Some neurosurgery procedures involve the use of intra-operative MRI and functional MRI.
Conventional Open Surgery :
In conventional open surgery the neurosurgeon opens the skull, uses a large opening to access the brain. Technique of using smaller openings and using microscopes and endoscopes were developed later. With this smaller openings and high clarity microscopic visualization of neural tissue excellent results can be obtained. But, the open methods are still used in trauma or emergency situations.
Micro Surgery :
Microsurgery is utilized in many aspects of neurological surgery. Microvascular techniques are used in EC-IC by-pass surgery and in restoration carotid endarterectomy. The clipping of an aneurysm is performed under microscopic vision. Minimally invasive spine surgery utilizes microscopes or endoscopes. Procedures such as microdiscectomy, laminectomy, and artificial disc replacement rely on microsurgery.
Stereotaxy Neuro Surgeons :
Using Stereotaxy neurosurgeons can approach a minute target in the brain through a minimal opening. This is used in functional neurosurgery where electrodes are implanted or gene therapy is instituted with high level of accuracy as in the case of Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. Then in the combination method of open and stereotactic surgery intraventricular hemorrhages could be evacuated successfully.
Minimally Invasive Endoscopic Surgery :
Minimally invasive endoscopic surgery is utilized by neurosurgeons. Techniques such as endoscopic endonasal surgery is used in pituitary tumors, craniopharyngiomas, chordomas, and the repair of cerebrospinal fluid leaks. Ventricular endoscopy is used in the treatment of intraventricular bleeds, hydrocephalus, colloid cysts and neurocysticercosis. Endonasal endoscopy at times is carried out with neurosurgeons and ENT surgeons as a team.
Repair of craniofacial disorders and disturbance of cerebrospinal fluid circulation is done by neurosurgeons, and at times teaming up with maxillofacial and plastic surgeons. Cranioplasty for craniosynostosis is performed by pediatric neurosurgeons with or without plastic surgeons.
Neurosurgeons are involved in Stereotactic Radiosurgery along with Radiation Oncologists in tumor and AVM treatment. Radiosurgical methods such as Gamma knife, Cyberknife and Novalis Shaped Beam Surgery are used.
Endovascular Neuro Surgery :
Endovascular Neurosurgery utilize endovascular image guided procedures for the treatment of aneurysms, AVMs, carotid stenosis, strokes, and spinal malformations, and vasospasms. Techniques such as angioplasty, stenting, clot retrieval, embolization, and diagnostic angiography are endovascular procedures.
Neurosurgery of the spine covers cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. Some indications for spine surgery are spinal cord compression from trauma, arthritis or spondylosis. In cervical cord compression patients may have gait difficulty, balance issues, numbness and tingling in hands or feet. Spondylosis is spinal disc degeneration and arthritis that compresses the spinal canal resulting in bone spurring and disc herniation. Power drills and special instruments are used to correct any compression to the spinal canal. Disk herniations of spinal vertebral disks are removed by Kerrison pitiutary ronguers. This is called a discectomy. Laminectomy is removing Lamina portion of the vertebra of the spine to make room for the compressed nerve tissue. Minimally invasive, radiology assisted spine surgery include vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty where some kinds of spinal fractures are managed.
Pain surgery handled by the neurosurgeons includes implantation of deep brain stimulators, spinal cord stimulators and pain pumps.
Surgeries of the peripheral nervous system include carpal tunnel decompression and peripheral nerve transposition.
- Other conditions treated by neurosurgeons include:
- Meningitis and other central nervous system infections including abscesses
- Spinal disc herniation
- Cervical spinal stenosis and Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Head trauma (brain hemorrhages, skull fractures, etc.)
- Spinal cord trauma
- Traumatic injuries of peripheral nerves
- Tumors of the spine, spinal cord and peripheral nerves
- Intracerebral hemorrhage, such as subarachnoid hemorrhage, interdepartmental, and intracellular hemorrhages
- Some forms of drug-resistant epilepsy
- Some forms of movement disorders (advanced Parkinson’s disease, chorea) – this involves the use of specially developed minimally invasive stereotactic techniques (functional, stereotactic neurosurgery) such as ablative surgery and deep brain stimulation surgery
- Intractable pain of cancer or trauma patients and cranial/peripheral nerve pain
- Some forms of intractable psychiatric disorders
- Vascular malformations (i.e., arteriovenous malformations, venous angiomas, cavernous angiomas, capillary telangectasias) of the brain and spinal cord
- Moyamoya disease