More than 1.5 billion people live with chronic pain.
And many people who live in chronic pain deal with debilitating condition has roots in either the spine or the brain. This is the domain of neurosurgeons. This is their story.
Neurosurgery can be traced back to the ancient Inca civilization. The Ancient Incas were known to open the heads of their ill and sick populations to perform procedures on the brain. During the Middle Ages in Arabia, Al-Zahrawi performed surgical treatments of head injuries, skull fractures, spinal injuries, and other ailments.
But aside from those two instances, neurosurgery was not well developed until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was when electrodes first began being put on the head and from which superficial tumors were removed. Today, neurosurgery is used to treat numerous conditions, including:
- Spinal disc herniation
- Head trauma, including brain hemorrhages and skull fractures
- Spinal cord trauma
- Traumatic injuries to the peripheral nerves
- Tumors of the spine, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves
Neurosurgeons go through a great deal of training, given that it is an incredibly difficult field of study, even within the medical profession, and that the field is highly, highly competitive, with just .6% of doctors being trained in neurosurgery.
Their length of study is generally a seven year residency, which is after undergraduate school and medical school. Typically, a neurosurgery resident will also conduct research into the different areas surrounding neurosurgery.
The areas of operation for neurosurgeons varies according to ailment, with most of the procedures focused on the brain and the spine. For surgery on the brain, neurosurgeons will typically open up a part of the skull to operate on the brain using micro-instruments These instruments include:
- Hand-held saws
- And more
Although some of these medical instruments have been used for some time, they are now designed and crafted with a great deal of accuracy, to the point that they are now designed with one millimeter of the desired length.
One of the most difficult challenges a neurosurgeon has to deal with is the amount of precision needed to pull off even routine surgeries. Because a neurosurgeon deals with the brain and the spine, even the slightest misstep can lead to someone losing an integral part of their life. In the case of spinal surgery, it could mean parallelization.
When it comes to the brain, it could mean altering an area crucial for day to day functioning, including the personality, the right and left parts of the brain, the parts of the brain that regulate emotion, store memory, harness intellectual capacity and so forth.
Neurosurgeons deal with situations where even within the surgery professions that have incredibly little margin for error. It is difficult to estimate how much confidence and knowledge a neurosurgeon must have before entering the operating room.
While the brain receives the most recognition for being the part of the body the neurosurgeon works on, the spine is important as well and is becoming more well known as an area which the neurosurgeon covers. There are many ailments affecting the spines of patients, so here are just a few:
- Spinal cord trauma
- Tumors on spines
- The bulging disc
This last one is of particular importance. About 80% of adults will experience low back pain at some point in their life, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Degenerative disc disease is fairly common; an estimated 30% of people aged 30 to 50 years old will have some degree of disc space degeneration.
In fact, a bulging disc can originate in one of three spinal regions: the cervical (upper), the thoracic (middle), and the lumbar (lower). Approximately 90% of bulging discs occur in the lower back. Unfortunately, in the cases of bulging discs or degenerative disc disease, a surgeon sometimes has to be called in to treat the case.
This is the case in approximately 10% of patients. Surgery in these cases is to relieve pain and loss of function. If you try to find a nurosurgeon, search for one that works on fusing lower back vertebrae or does minimally-invasive surgery. The best brain conditions treatments are found by trying to find a nurosurgeon who is the best at their profession.
Find a nurosurgeon through references and online. Also find a nurosurgeon by asking your primary care or specialist who the best is.