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Many people, when they hear the term neurosurgery, think brain surgery. Neurosurgery however involves much more than that. Neurosurgeons deal with conditions of the brain, the nervous system, including the spine and the peripheral nerves and the arteries of the neck. (Read about "The Brain" "Nervous System" "The Spine") Some of these conditions are the result of disease, some of traumatic injuries and others because of degenerative problems. Neurosurgeons can be involved in the treatment of many conditions including:
When a person has a blood clot in their brain from an accident or a stroke, a neurosurgeon can remove the clot. If there is bleeding in the brain from an accident or a stroke, it is a neurosurgeon who helps stop the bleeding and relieve the pressure on the brain. A neurosurgeon can also help open up the carotid artery in your neck if it is being blocked by a buildup of plaque, the result of atherosclerosis. (Read about "Arteriosclerosis & Atherosclerosis")
A neurosurgeon may also be involved when there is a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. The surgeon can divert fluid to the blood system or into the abdomen.
Neurosurgery can be part of the treatment for seizures and epilepsy. Surgery may be performed on parts of the brain that are involved in the seizures. There is also a type of surgery, called vagal nerve stimulation that is used.
Removing tumors from the brain and the spine are an important part of neurosurgery. Computer-assisted stereotactic surgery uses scanning methods such as CT-scans (Read about "CT Scan - Computerized Tomography") to better locate a tumor during surgery.
Neurosurgeons also can be involved in the treatment of back pain caused by nerve pressure and other nerve problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Neurosurgeons work closely with other doctors and healthcare providers to help decide on tests and put together a treatment plan.
Some procedures used in the diagnosis and/or treatment of the brain include:
Carotid endarterectomy - Carotid endarterectomy is a surgical procedure designed to prevent strokes. It can be used to unclog the carotid artery in the neck that has become clogged or blocked.
Cerebral angiography / cerebral arteriogram - Cerebral angiography or cerebral arteriogram is an x-ray of the blood vessels of the brain. Dye is injected into the vessel using a catheter or small tube. The blood vessels can be seen because the dye shows up in the x-ray pictures. It can be used to identify blockages and other problems interfering with the flow of blood. It can also be used to diagnose problems of the brain and brainstem such as aneurysm or stroke. (Read about "X-rays")
Computed tomography angiogram (CTA) - Computed tomography angiogram (CTA) is a CT scan that can be used to diagnose problems of the brain and brainstem such as aneurysm or stroke. (Read about "CT Scan - Computerized Tomography")
Craniotomy - A craniotomy is an operation in which an opening is made in the skull. It can be used as treatment for brain tumors. It can also be used to inspect the brain, remove clots or perform a biopsy.
Electroencephalogram (EEG) - An EEG is the recording of the brain's electrical activity. It can be used in the diagnosis of brain disorders such as epilepsy, stroke, brain tumors, brain injury and other conditions. (Read about "EEG - Electroencephalograph")
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) - Functional magnetic resonance imaging is a noninvasive tool used to observe functioning in the brain or other organs by detecting changes in chemical composition, blood flow, or both. It can also be used in the diagnosis and monitoring of brain tumors, strokes, multiple sclerosis and other conditions. (Read about "MRI - Magnetic Resonance Imaging")
Intracarotid infusion - Intracarotid infusion is the introduction of fluids and drugs directly into the carotid artery, the main artery in the neck that carries blood from the heart to the brain. (Read about "Infusion Therapy")
Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) - Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) is a special type of MRI that can be used to see the blood vessels in your neck or brain. It can be used to diagnose problems of the brain and brainstem such as aneurysm or stroke.
Stereotactic biopsy - Stereotactic biopsy uses a computer and a three-dimensional scanning device to find a tumor site and guide the removal of tissue for examination under a microscope. It can be used to diagnose breast cancer, brain tumors and other cancers. (Read about "Biopsy")
Stereotactic radiosurgery - Stereotactic radiosurgery is a radiation therapy technique involving a rigid head frame that is attached to the skull. (Read about "Radiation Therapy") High-dose radiation is administered through openings in the head frame to the tumor while decreasing the amount of radiation given to normal brain tissue. This technique delivers radiation directly to a tumor while sparing the healthy tissue. This procedure does not involve surgery. It is also called stereotaxic radiosurgery and stereotactic radiation therapy. It can be used in the treatment of brain tumors.
Temporal lobectomy - A lobectomy is the removal of a lobe, or portion of an organ. Temporal lobectomy is the removal of a portion of the temporal lobe of the brain. It is a common type of epilepsy surgery.
Some procedures used in the diagnosis and/or treatment of the spine include:
Discectomy - A discectomy removes part of a herniated disk in the spine. It can be used to relieve some of the pressure on a nerve that is causing pain in the back or the leg. (Read about "Disk Problems")
Laminectomy - A laminectomy removes the bony area at the back of the vertebra, the lamina, to relieve pressure. It is often done in conjunction with discectomy and fusion.
Laminoplasty - A laminoplasty is the cutting of the bony area at the back of the vertebra, the lamina, and hinging it back to increase the size of the spinal canal. The lamina can be kept open through various techniques such as bone struts, sutures, metal plates or spacers and tension bands.
Laminotomy - A laminotomy is the partial removal of the bony area at the back of the vertebra, the lamina, to relieve pressure.
Myelogram - A myelogram is an x-ray examination, during which a contrast dye is injected into the fluid-filled space around the spinal cord. It can be used to detect abnormalities of the spine, spinal cord or surrounding structures.
Spinal fusion - Spinal fusion can be used to treat injuries, ruptured disks and scoliosis. Two or more vertebrae are fused together using bone and/or metal rods.
Vertebroplasty - Vertebroplasty can be used for fractures of the spine. A glue type substance is injected into a fractured vertebra to stabilize it.
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