Spine conditions are common, and many different types of doctors offer care for problems related to the back and neck.
Which Specialist Should I See?
Patients who have complex
problems involving the bones and nerves in the spine usually do best under
the care of a specialist. This is especially true when patients may be
candidates for surgical treatment of their condition.
When this is the case, often patients wonder if they should choose a
neurosurgeon (a surgeon specializing in problems related to the nerves), or
an orthopedic surgeon (a surgeon specializing in problems with the bones).
Seek Expertise in Treating Your Condition
Both neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons are highly skilled in treating
problems related to the spine. For many conditions that require a surgical
specialist, a well-qualified neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon will be
able to provide effective, comprehensive care. Rather than asking "which
specialty" is best, it usually makes more sense to ask about the training
and experience a particular surgeon has had in treating a specific
There are some relatively rare problems that are best served by one
specialist — for example, spinal cord tumors and other intradural
conditions are treated by neurosurgeons, while adult scoliosis and other
spinal deformities are usually treated by orthopaedic spine surgeons. In
these cases, at a comprehensive Spine Center like the one at Beth Israel
Deaconess we can quickly guide the patient to the right specialist.
Benefits of Both
For cases that present special challenges, it can be extremely helpful to
have the perspective of both specialists. That's because each is likely to
have a different way of "seeing" the patient and the problem. By sharing
these different perspectives, specialists may be able to design a plan of
care that is more complete than if either were caring for the patient
Advantage of a Multidisciplinary Spine Center
The BIDMC Spine Center's model of care illustrates how this can work. We
routinely hold multidisciplinary conferences, where both types of
) discuss patients under their care. By designing this type of
collaboration into our program, we give our patients the benefit of a
combined approach to care — one that not only uses the full range of each
specialist's expertise, but also ensures a truly customized and
comprehensive plan of care for each patient.
Please ask your doctor any questions you may have about which
specialists you should see for your condition, what each has to offer,
and how specialists work together to coordinate your care.