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New Ways to Fix Your Brain, Nerves: Neurosurgery

Today, innovation has given us impressive surgeries that can enhance quality of life. Some can even keep people alive. About 51 million surgeries are performed every year. You may have had surgery yourself at some point in your life.

One procedure most of us haven’t had is brain surgery. This surgery has a well-deserved reputation for requiring a skilled, cohesive team to be successful.

In health care, brain surgery is part of the field known as neurosurgery.

What Is Neurosurgery?

A neurosurgeon works to diagnose and treat disorders of the complete nervous system. This includes your brain, spinal cord, skull and spine. Although brain surgery is one aspect of neurosurgery, neurosurgeons spend most of their time working with problems of the spine or peripheral nerves. (These are the nerves outside the brain and spine).

Neurosurgeons provide both surgical and nonsurgical care. They work closely with a large group of medical specialists to treat:

  • Congenital anomalies (nerve abnormalities at birth)
  • Trauma (a severe injury)
  • Tumors in the nervous system
  • Vascular disorders (blood and blood vessel problems associated with the brain, spine or nerves)
  • Infections of the brain or spine
  • Stroke
  • Degenerative diseases of the spine
  • Chronic pain

Among the innovations that reduce surgical risks and recovery time is minimally invasive surgery.

Minimally Invasive Surgery Is Easier for the Patient

In the past, major surgery may have been needed to address problems. Today we use many techniques and technologies that allow us to use smaller incisions. We can also access surgical areas through natural openings such as the mouth or nasal passages. This speeds recovery, reduces the hospital stay, decreases scaring. It also returns the patient to their normal activities sooner.

More Extensive Surgical Options Still Available

Since the beginning of neurosurgery back in the 1930s, we’ve made enormous strides. We’ve continued to refine and develop new techniques. We now have a range of sound and safe treatments for most neurological issues.

And a quality neurology care team will be both collaborative and patient centered. The Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute has such a team with a broad range of specialties. These include:

  • Cranial neurosurgery
  • Spinal neurosurgery
  • Head and neck oncology
  • Rhinology and endoscopic skull base surgery
  • Endovascular
  • Stroke
  • Epilepsy
  • Critical care
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • General neurology
  • Neuro oncology
  • Radiation oncology
  • Medical oncology

How Can You Tell If You Have a Neurological Problem?

If you have questions about a neurological problem, see your health care professional.

Symptoms of a neurological problem can arise from a problem with one nerve or many. Symptoms often appear in the peripheral nervous system (nerves outside the brain and spine). Symptoms can include burning, pins and needles (prickling) sensations, numbness and muscle weakness, paralysis or sensitivity.

These symptoms can be caused by an injury to one part of the body. They can also be caused by an illness that affects your entire body.

Sometimes, pain can be felt in one area due to an issue in another part of the body — this is called referred pain. This can be challenging for health care professionals to diagnose and treat.

A number of different issues can cause neurological problems.

Nerves can become compressed, such as with carpal tunnel syndrome. This happens when a nerve in the wrist is compressed and blood flow is reduced.

Some diseases can injure the nerves. An example would be diabetes. The high blood sugar that results from diabetes can cause nerve damage.

Nerve damage can be caused by autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome or lupus. Damage can also be caused by viruses such as Epstein-Barr or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

In more extreme cases, neurological problems can interrupt involuntary functions. This can include breathing, eating, digestion and perspiration. Symptoms can include low blood pressure, dizziness or loss of consciousness.

If you or someone you’re with have these symptoms, contact a health care professional immediately. 

Meet the Author

Ofer M. Zikel, MD, is a neurosurgeon at Aurora Medical Center in Summit, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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