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Orthopedic Surgeon vs. Neurosurgeon: Who To Call for Spine Surgery

When people think about getting spine surgery, the most common question is, “Which is better, an orthopedic spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon?”

For most sorts of spine surgery, both orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons who are specially trained may be considered. This article discusses what the two fields have in common and what makes them different. It also gives more tips on choosing a spine surgeon in CT.

Neurosurgeons and Orthopedic Surgeons can Specialize in Spine Surgery

Back in the day, spine surgery was done mainly by neurosurgeons. However, in the last 20 to 25 years, spine surgery has changed so that neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons now specialize in it. Nevertheless, for most common spine operations, both types of surgeons are just as qualified.

In both fields, surgeons can subspecialize, like those focusing on pediatrics, lumbar spine, hand and wrist surgery, cervical spine, plastic surgery, or other areas or procedures.


Neurosurgeons can be Medical Doctors (MDs) or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine. They all have to do a 5- to 6-year residency training program specifically geared toward the surgical management of neurological conditions. Surgeons who specialize in neurosurgery are trained to diagnose and treat problems with:

  • Brain
  • Spine and spinal cord
  • Nerves
  • Intraspinal and intracranial vasculature

Some neurosurgeons focus solely on brain or spine surgery, while others perform both types of procedures.

Orthopedic Surgeons

Orthopedic Surgeons​ - LCOS,PC

Orthopedic surgeons are either MDs or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine. They have completed a 5-year surgical residency program specializing in treating the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedists are medical doctors who focus on assessing and treating problems relating to the skeleton and its joints.

  • Spinal problems
  • Sports injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Bone tumors
  • Trauma
  • Total joint replacement
  • Hand or wrist injuries

Some orthopedic surgeons only work on the spine, while others work on other joints like the hips, knees, and shoulders. However, some surgeons can practice in two or more areas.

Most kinds of spine surgery can be performed by either neurosurgeons or orthopedic surgeons who have completed a fellowship program in the field. However, some procedures for which one specialty is considered more qualified. This can be seen in cases such as:

  • The surgical correction of spinal deformities, including scoliosis and other spinal deformities, was traditionally the domain of orthopedic surgeons. However, deformity surgery has become a typical specialty among neurosurgeons nowadays.
  • Intradural or spinal cord surgery, such as the removal of a tumor from the thecal sac, is often performed by neurosurgeons.

Spine Fellowships

Spine fellowships are post-residency training programs wherein either an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon can participate. After completing their residency programs, neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons who wish to further their education and become board certified or eligible can do so by enrolling in one of these fellowships.

When a surgeon finishes a spine fellowship, it shows that they have selected to focus on spine surgery and are willing to put in more time and money to improve in that field.

However, this wasn’t always the case. For example, about 15 to 20 years ago, before the recognition of spine surgery as a subspecialty, orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons rarely went through a spine fellowship program. And surgeons who have been in practice for this long and have specialized in spine surgery may have gotten all the extra training they need and may not need fellowship training.

Do Orthopaedic Spine Surgeons and Neurosurgeons Treat Nerves?

People may think that neurosurgeons care more about nerves than orthopedic spine surgeons do when operating. However, no matter what kind of spine specialist is doing the surgery, they will be concerned about how the nerves are doing. Surgery involving anatomy close to the spinal column nerves is a big deal. There are many risks. A surgery of this type can’t go well if the nerves aren’t given much consideration.

Again, orthopedic spine surgeons and neurosurgeons train together and learn the same techniques and procedures. The line between them is becoming less and less clear. By choosing a fellowship-trained and board-certified surgeon, you can be sure that the doctor has been trained and equipped for the risks and severity of neck and back surgeries.

Experienced Spine Surgeons in CT

Experienced Spine Surgeons in CT​

While s neurosurgeon is the best option to see if you have problems with your spine, an orthopedic surgeon is the one to consult if you need treatment for the hip, shoulder, knee, or have a severely fractured bone.

Seek a neurosurgeon for diagnosis and treatment of severe back problems. Don’t endanger your health and mobility by having anybody other than a surgeon certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery treat your spine.

At Spine Specialist Litchfield County Ortho, our neurosurgeons do spine surgery regularly, and we’ve been helping people for decades with excellent results. So call us now or fill out our form to make an appointment. We can’t wait to help you get back to living an active, pain-free life.