Atlanta Orthopaedic Spine Specialists

Is a Neurosurgeon or Spine Surgeon Better for Spine Surgery?

Why Spine Surgery Specialization?

The specialization of SpineCenterAtlanta is Orthopaedic Spine Surgery. Orthopaedics is the broad-based medical and surgical specialty dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. The frequency and impact of these diseases and injuries combined with recent advances in their diagnosis and surgical treatment make orthopaedics a critical part of health care. Neurosurgery is the medical specialty concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the brain, spinal cord and spinal column, and peripheral nerves within all parts of the body.

Patients often ask what kind of surgeon should do their spine surgery: a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon? While each specialty has a different focus in training, both are equally qualified to do the majority of spine surgery. Traditionally, neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons have worked together in the operating room. Today, each are trained in spine and are fully capable of working on complex spine problems, including the careful handling of nerve tissue and soft tissue around the spine.

Back pain has caused human suffering since the beginning of time, but the understanding of spinal problems and the development of specialized care for the spine has occurred only in the past few decades. Great advances in non-operative treatments of spinal disorders as well as diagnostic capabilities and surgical techniques have been made. There are successful new treatments that include improved microscopic techniques for minimally invasive spinal decompression, fusion techniques with state-of-the-art instrumentation using segmental fixation devices and/or interbody cages, as well as advanced bone grafting techniques. With the rapidly evolving and complex discipline of spine surgery, a physician trained specifically in spine surgery is better able to provide effective solutions for acute and chronic neck and back pain.

what kind of spine surgeon?

The training for the specialty is long and rigorous. A five-year orthopaedic surgical residency follows medical school. Year one is a general surgical residency and basic orthopaedic training. Years two through five focus specifically on orthopaedics. During this four-year period, training includes responsible patient care, trauma, metabolic bone disease, benign and malignant tumors, laboratory tests, radiology, orthotics, reconstructive surgery and basic science such as biomechanics, physiology, and pathology. Throughout the residency, the resident’s effectiveness as a physician is evaluated and refined. Many orthopaedic surgeons are “fellowship-trained”, which means they have received in-depth training beyond their residency in a super-specialty such as the spine (e.g., orthopaedic spine surgeon). Fellowships usually involve clinical experience combined with research in the super-specialty for various periods of time up to two years.

Upon successful completion of a five-year orthopaedic surgical residency, the physician may apply to take Part I of the Certifying Examination administered by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons (ABOS). An application to complete Part II can be submitted after 22 months of practice. Part I (written) and Part II (oral) certifies the candidate has met ABOS’s educational requirements, has demonstrated competence in orthopaedic surgery, and adheres to ethical standards. Certificates are valid for ten years.*

Once certified by the ABOS, the orthopaedic surgeon may apply for the two-part, written Certifying Examination of the American Board of Spine Surgery. The requirements to qualify include: 1. (a) Successful completion of a twelve-month approved spine fellowship program, or (b) have resident training and experience deemed by the American College of Spine Surgery to be equivalent to a twelve-month approved spine fellowship program, or 2. Have documented performance in the immediate past two years of at least 100 spine surgeries. The required documentation must include a listing of all surgical procedures performed over the immediate past six (6) months, 50% of which must be spine surgeries. The applicant must have documented experience in the operative and non-operative management of spinal disorders including, but not limited to trauma, degeneration, neoplasia, infection, and deformity. Certificates are valid for ten years*

While the orthopaedic spine surgeon has a comprehensive knowledge after medical school and fellowship training, there are continual changes in this specialty that require ongoing study throughout the orthopaedic surgeon’s professional career. Monthly scientific journals, annual meetings, specialized symposia and other educational opportunities help the orthopaedic surgeon keep pace with rapid changes and developments in orthopaedics and spine surgery. In addition to these years of learning and training, the orthopaedic surgeon must attend numerous hours of Continuing Medical Education courses throughout their careers so as to both maintain their license to practice and to stay current with medical advances.

Contact our Atlanta Orthopaedic Spine Specialists today.

Dr. James Chappuis is an Orthopaedic Surgeon with additional Fellowship training in spinal surgery, and Certified by the ABOS and the American Board of Spine Surgery.

Click here to view Dr. James Chappuis’s Curriculum Vitae.

*This information was provided by the ABOS and the American Board of Spine Surgery.