Brain surgeons are more accurately called neurosurgeons, as their specialty is not limited to the brain. They examine, make diagnoses, and operate on the central, peripheral, and automomous nervous systems. Neurosurgeons treat disorders and diseases of the brain, head, and spinal cord; as well as associated nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. They may specialize in cancer, pediatric neurosurgery, or treatment of the spine, vascular system, or nerves.
There are many possible causes of a patient’s symptoms. Among them are cancer, stroke, mental illness, chronic pain, injuries, epilepsy, spinal trauma, cognitive and behavioral disorders, infections, movement disorders, sleep problems, cerebral palsy, encephalitis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. Spine disorders include a degenerative disease and scoliosis.
To determine the cause of the problem, a neurosurgeon examines the nerves in the head and the neck, and measures the patient’s muscular coordination and reflexes. Impaired language skills also can be a sign of illness. Diagnostic methods include CT scans, MRIs, spinal taps, SPECT tests, PET scans, lumbar punctures, electroencephalography, electromyography, and nerve-conduction velocity tests.
Neurosurgeons generally work in examinating and operating rooms at hospitals. Most also run private practices, either alone or with other doctors. Neurosurgeons perform surgery on the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves to remove tumors, relieve chronic pain and treat wounds, vascular disorders and diseases such as Parkinson's and epilepsy. They also use surgery to relieve hydrocephalus, the abnormal build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Brain surgeons may focus on the correction of deformities and treatment of diseases of the spinal cord such as degenerative spine disorder and scoliosis. Other areas of sub-specialization include pediatric neurosurgery and radiosurgery, the targeted use of radiation to treat tumors.
The neurosurgeon's primary daily responsibility is to perform surgery to resolve problems with the nervous system, but there are a number of other tasks that must also be done. These include assessing and diagnosing patients as they come in to the hospital, an unpredictable task because emergency patients cannot be scheduled ahead of time. The neurosurgeon must also meet with the families of patients in surgery and update them on the situation with their family members, as well as keeping records, writing prescriptions and filling out paperwork.
The neurosurgeon's day might begin with a scheduled surgery to remove a brain tumor or repair some nerve damage, with other elective procedures scheduled for later in the day. However, the elective surgeries can suddenly be preempted by an unscheduled emergency surgery for a patient with an aneurysm or a stroke. The schedule of a neurosurgeon changes constantly to accommodate emergencies, and neurosurgeons are frequently called upon for consultations with other departments in the hospital.
• Study patients’ medical histories and the results of examimations by other doctors;
• Examine and interview patients, learning their complaints and symptoms;
• Order and analyze diagnostic tests and procedures;
• Make diagnoses based on the results of examinations and tests;
• Discuss with patients and their families the benefits and risks of treatment options;
• Prescribe medication, recommend nonsurgical treatments, and refer patients to other medical specialists;
• When surgery is needed, determine the proper procedure;
• Schedule the operation, in conjunction with nurses, anesthesiologists, assistants, and specialists;
• Coordinate staff, plan the procedure, and order medical instruments and other supplies;
• Perform operations on the nervous system, using either a micoscope in microsurgery or a scalpel in a more invasive procedure;
• Meet with patients and family members to provide postoperative recommendations, nutritional suggestions, and other advice;
• Create and maintain patient records;
• Supervise medical technicians and administrative staff;
• Provide training for students and staff; and
• Receive continuing education, read medical journals, and attend conferences.
A student wishing to pursue a career as a neurosurgeon must appear for the Common Entrance Test (CET) after passing Std. XII. At the Std.XI & XII levels, the students should have taken up English and medical subjects, namely physics, chemistry and biology (botany & zoology). After successfully passing the CET, the student does MBBS.
On getting an MBBS degree, you have to do an MS in general neurosurgery & then an M.Ch. in neurosurgery (this is a 5 year course). All these degrees amount to about 14 years of education.
When a neurosurgeon works in the public sector, his/her pay scale is as per the norms of the Sixth Pay Commission. Depending on the post, a neurosurgeon in the public sector can have a starting salary of Rs.40,000/- and go up to nearly Rs.1 lakh for higher posts & more experience.
In the private sector, on the other hand, a neurosurgeon can start earning at Rs.1lakh & earn anything up to Rs.2 lakh. Of course, setting up one's private medical practice is no easy task!
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