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Brain surgeon name

Difference Between a Neurosurgeon and Neurologist

With so many medical specialties, it’s important to understand what type of specialist to see when trying to get diagnosed for a medical condition. A neurosurgeon and a neurologist both specialize in the treatment of medical problems affecting the central nervous system. The central nervous system controls most of the functions of the body and mind, consisting of the brain and spinal cord.


A neurologist treats diseases and conditions of the brain and nervous system, but they do not perform surgery. Some of the common conditions they treat include headaches, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders, pain, brain tumors, peripheral nerve disorders, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Some neurologists focus on a subspecialty like neurophysiology, pediatric neurology, epilepsy, vascular neurology, behavioral neurology, or others.


One common myth is that neurosurgeons are just brain surgeons. However, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), they typically spend a lot more time on spine conditions and procedures than brain conditions and procedures. Common conditions neurosurgeons treat are back pain, neck pain, sciatica, herniated disks, degenerative diseases of the spine, cerebrovascular disorders, brain and spinal tumors, and stroke. In addition, since the nervous system extends from your brain to your spine and your nerves branch out into your entire body, they treat conditions that present symptoms in one part of your body that are actually related to a problem in the central nervous system. For example, carpal tunnel symptoms are sometimes related to a problem in your cervical spine (neck area).

Although they can perform very complex surgeries, neurosurgeons typically use non-operative treatment plans before performing surgery. If surgery is required, minimally invasive techniques are used whenever possible. Neurosurgeons are also on call for emergency room physicians when a patient has trauma involving the brain and spinal cord.


Neurologists undergo four years of pre-medical education at a college or university, four years of medical school resulting in an MD or DO degree, one year of internship, and at least three years of specialty training in a neurology residence program. Some neurologists elect to take additional training in an area of interest such as stroke, movement disorders, or sleep medicine.

A neurosurgeon’s training is the longest training period of any medical specialty. In addition to four years of pre-medical education, four years of medical school, and a year of internship, their residency is five to seven years. After that, many pursue a fellowship to specialize in an area such as spine, pediatric neurosurgery, or peripheral nerve surgery.


There is some overlap between these two types of specialists and the conditions they treat. Sometimes these doctors work collaboratively; a neurologist can refer their patients to a neurosurgeon when surgery is required (such as for a brain tumor) and then the patient returns to the neurologist for long-term management. If you have a condition or symptoms that you think require a brain and spine specialist, ask your primary care physician about which type of specialist to see. Our multidisciplinary team of physicians at The Center are equipped with the latest technologies and have the experience to treat any injury or condition that affects your musculoskeletal system.

Neurosurgeon at The Center, Dr. Ray Tien, explains the differences between a neurosurgeon and a neurologist in the video below.


“I think one of the common misperceptions about neurosurgery is that our professions share some similarities with neurology.

“The difference is that neurosurgeons deal with surgical issues related to the brain and spine, whereas neurologists often deal more with nonsurgical, degenerative issues related to neurological problems. So for instance, Alzheimer’s disease – it’s not a medical condition that a neurosurgeon can treat, but neurologists will evaluate those types of conditions.

“Whereas herniated discs in the lumbar spine, that’s typically not a condition that a neurologist can treat. It usually falls within the neurosurgical profession.”

What Is a Neurosurgeon? What They Do, When to See One, and What to Expect

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 23, 2021

In this Article

  • What Does a Neurosurgeon Do?
  • Education and Training
  • Reasons to See a Neurosurgeon

Neurosurgeons are medical doctors that diagnose and treat conditions related to  the brain, spine, and other parts of your nervous system. They differ from neurologists in that they’re specifically trained and certified in the use of surgical treatments, whereas neurologists focus on other forms of treatment. 

Because neurosurgeons are experts in the human nervous system, they also perform a wide variety of duties in addition to surgery. For instance, other health specialists such as emergency room doctors and neurologists often consult with neurosurgeons regarding their cases. Neurosurgeons also help evaluate and rehabilitate people with neurological conditions. 

What Does a Neurosurgeon Do?

There’s a myth that neurosurgeons spend all of their time in surgery. In reality, they have many other responsibilities. It can be hard to predict exactly what an appointment with a neurosurgeon will involve. 

As some of the most experienced and highly trained specialists in medicine, neurosurgeons spend a great deal of time consulting with other doctors about various cases. They also have their own roster of cases, each with unique challenges. Not all of these cases will need surgery, though many likely will. 

Neurosurgeons treat people with a range of neurological issues, such as:

  • Lower back pain
  • Peripheral nervous system disorders (issues with nerves that carry messages to and from the brain)
  • Brain tumors
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Neurosurgeons use state-of-the-art imaging technologies to find the source of the problem. These include: 

  • Magnetoencephalography (MEG scan), used to find the source of seizures
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), used to create detailed pictures of the inside of the body
  • Positron emission tomography (PET scan), often used to search for cancer
  • Computed tomography (CT scan), a test that shows more detail than a standard X-ray

Once they know the source of the problem, your neurosurgeon can find a method to treat it effectively. 

Education and Training

Neurosurgeons have one of the longest training periods of any doctor. Their training consists of: 

  • Four years of medical school
  • A one-year internship 
  • Five to seven years of residency
  • Often an additional year studying a subspecialty like pediatric neurosurgery

Additionally, future neurosurgeons must receive certification from the American Board of Neurological Surgery before they’re allowed to practice. Board certification requires an extensive period of both written and oral examination.  

Reasons to See a Neurosurgeon

There are many reasons why you might see a neurosurgeon. They include: 


This is a serious infection of the outer part of your brain or spinal cord. Its symptoms are similar to those of a fever, but they last longer and are more severe. The specific surgical treatment needed for meningitis will depend on whether the infection is viral or bacterial.

Spinal disk herniation

Spinal disks are cushions that sit between your vertebrae. They prevent the bones of your back from rubbing against each other, which causes pain. Herniation occurs when the inner material of a disk swells and pushes through the outer membrane. Serious discomfort can result if spinal disks flatten or rupture. Most surgeries to treat spinal hernias are relatively quick operations that can be done in a single day.

Parkinson’s disease

This condition affects the part of your brain that controls movement. It can cause tremors, balance issues, and other problems. Most people with Parkinson’s disease are treated with medication, but some cases are more complicated. When the disease severely affects your quality of life, a neurosurgeon can implant an electrode that stimulates your brain and provides relief from symptoms.


This central nervous system disorder causes seizures. There are several surgical procedures that neurosurgeons can use to treat epilepsy, such as laser ablation surgery  (removing material via a laser) that targets specific lesions in the brain that cause seizures. 

World-famous neurosurgeon Albert Sufianov - 55

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March 7, Chief Physician of the Federal Center for Neurosurgery in Tyumen, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, Honored Doctor of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan, Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tatarstan, Honorary Citizen of Tyumen and Vikhorevka, Deputy of the Tyumen Regional Duma, Head Department of Neurosurgery, First Moscow State Medical University. I.M. Sechenov Albert Akramovich Sufianov celebrates its anniversary.

A unique neurosurgeon-practitioner, a very efficient, modern and hard-working leader and organizer, a scientist-developer, who occupies a leading position not only in Russia, but also in the world. Saved thousands of human lives. His diligence is called fantastic, and many neurosurgeons of the world try to repeat his author's unique techniques. Albert Akramovich himself lives by the principle: “The patient comes first, everything else is secondary. Even my own life."

Many people know about him, but not everyone knows how the professional path of the famous neurosurgeon developed.

Albert Akramovich was born on March 7, 1965 in Vikhorevka, Irkutsk Region. He graduated from school with a gold medal, Irkutsk Medical Institute - with honors. After completing residency in neurosurgery, he was trained in Japan and Germany, learned foreign languages. He defended his doctoral dissertation on endoscopic neurosurgery, becoming its founder in Russia. At 1996 created the first department of pediatric neurosurgery in Eastern Siberia. Actively trained in the best neurosurgical clinics in the USA, China, Austria, Italy and other countries.

In 2009, he was invited by the Government of the Russian Federation to Tyumen to lead the construction of the Federal Center for Neurosurgery of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation as part of a national project. In the shortest possible time, he completed the construction, and in 2010 he headed the center as the head doctor. In order to fulfill the first state order (3000 operations), he worked together with the staff of the FTS in the first year of the clinic's operation - almost around the clock. Today, the FCN (Tyumen) is an internationally recognized expert medical institution with unique world-class equipment and technologies. Due to the total introduction of minimally invasive technologies, including in neurooncology, this is one of the most intensively working centers of neurosurgery in the world: 4000 operations per year for 95 beds. Over 800 operations of the highest complexity are annually performed personally by Albert Akramovich Sufianov, dozens of them are performed on "refusal" patients. In 2017, Albert Akramovich performed the first intrauterine endoscopic surgery in Russia for fetal hydrocephalus.

The professor implemented his own training system for neurosurgeons with unique 3D laboratories. In 2016, for the first time in the 260-year history of the First Moscow State Medical University (Sechenov University), the Department of Neurosurgery was established with a clinical base in Tyumen, and Professor Sufianov was entrusted to head it. Today, the FCN is the leader in Russia in terms of the number and level of educational international neurosurgical events (over 15 annually). Over 1200 doctors from 36 countries of the world have been trained for 7 years.

Albert Sufianov is the only Russian full member of the World Academy of Neurosurgeons, which unites only 100 leading neurosurgeons of the world. In 2018, he was elected head of the educational committee of the Asian Congress of Neurosurgeons (unites neurosurgeons from 40 countries with 2/3 of the world's population), became the first ever world leader from Russia in neurosurgical education. Since 2019 - Chairman of the Russian-Chinese Society of Neurosurgeons, as well as UNESCO Ambassador for the Digital Anatomy Project from Eastern Europe and Russia, Honorary Professor of Harbin University. He regularly holds master classes in leading world centers (Switzerland, Japan, USA, Germany and other countries). The author's developments of the professor are implemented by leading Russian and foreign companies.

With his activities, Albert Sufianov reversed not only the flow of patients in neurosurgery - not from Russia abroad, but from abroad to Russia, but also the drain of "young brains" in neurosurgery. Today, residents and graduate students from abroad go to Russia, to Siberia, to study and do science, and not vice versa. The principle of a social lift for talented Russian students is being implemented. Ideologist and organizer of the International Student Olympiad in Neurosurgery, the winners of which get the opportunity to study and engage in scientific activities at Sechenov University through public grants, which is very important for Russia today. In a short time Sufianov A.A. brought Tyumen to the ranks of the most recognizable neurosurgical cities in the world, for which he was awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of Tyumen. November 27, 2018 President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin personally awarded Professor A.A. Sufianov with the sign "Honored Doctor of the Russian Federation".

Albert Akramovich is a good family man, husband, father and already twice grandfather.

Happy Anniversary, dear Albert Akramovich! The staff of the Federal Center for Neurosurgery in Tyumen congratulates you and wishes you the best of health and further professional success. We are proud of you!

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