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Neurologist vs. Neurosurgeon — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Maham Liaqat — Updated on May 19, 2024
A neurologist diagnoses and treats neurological disorders without surgery, focusing on the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. A neurosurgeon performs surgical procedures to treat neurological conditions, dealing with structural issues in the brain and spine.
Neurologist vs. Neurosurgeon — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Neurologist and Neurosurgeon


Key Differences

A neurologist specializes in diagnosing and managing neurological conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease. They use non-surgical methods like medication and physical therapy to treat patients. A neurosurgeon, in contrast, performs surgeries to treat neurological disorders, often addressing physical abnormalities like brain tumors, spinal cord injuries, and aneurysms. They use surgical tools and techniques to directly intervene in the nervous system.
Neurologists often conduct extensive tests such as EEGs, MRIs, and lumbar punctures to diagnose conditions. They rely on these diagnostic tools to formulate treatment plans. Neurosurgeons also use these diagnostic tools but primarily to prepare for and plan surgical interventions.
Both neurologists and neurosurgeons may work together in managing complex cases. For instance, a neurologist may refer a patient to a neurosurgeon if they believe surgery is necessary, and post-surgery, the neurologist may continue with non-surgical follow-up care.
Neurologists typically work in outpatient settings and hospitals, focusing on long-term management of neurological disorders. Neurosurgeons, however, spend a significant amount of time in operating rooms, performing intricate surgeries.
Educationally, both neurologists and neurosurgeons start with medical degrees, but neurosurgeons undergo additional surgical training, including residencies that are often longer and more specialized compared to those of neurologists.
Neurologists and neurosurgeons both require board certification, but their certification exams and required competencies differ, reflecting their distinct roles in treating neurological conditions.

Comparison Chart


Diagnosing and treating neurological disorders non-surgically
Performing surgical procedures on the nervous system

Treatment Methods

Medications, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications
Surgical interventions, including brain and spine surgery

Work Environment

Outpatient clinics, hospitals
Operating rooms, hospitals

Education Path

Medical degree + neurology residency
Medical degree + neurosurgery residency

Board Certification

Neurology-specific certification
Neurosurgery-specific certification

Compare with Definitions


A medical doctor specializing in neurology.
The neurologist diagnosed the patient with multiple sclerosis.


A medical doctor specializing in neurosurgery.
The neurosurgeon successfully removed the brain tumor.


Expert in diagnosing neurological disorders.
The neurologist ordered an MRI to check for brain abnormalities.


Uses surgical techniques for neurological disorders.
The neurosurgeon performed a craniotomy to relieve pressure.


Focuses on non-surgical treatment of the nervous system.
The neurologist prescribed medication for epilepsy.


Performs surgeries on the nervous system.
The neurosurgeon operated on the patient’s herniated disc.


Conducts tests like EEGs and lumbar punctures.
The neurologist performed an EEG to monitor brain activity.


Often involved in trauma care.
The neurosurgeon handled the emergency brain surgery after the accident.


Manages chronic neurological conditions.
The neurologist provided long-term care for the Parkinson's patient.


Treats structural issues within the brain and spine.
The neurosurgeon repaired the damaged spinal cord.


The branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the nervous system.


Surgery on any part of the nervous system.


A doctor or scientist who practices or specializes in neurology.


A surgeon specializing in brain surgery.


One who is versed in neurology; also, one skilled in the treatment of nervous diseases.


Someone who does surgery on the nervous system (especially the brain)


A medical specialist in the nervous system and the disorders affecting it

Common Curiosities

When should I see a neurosurgeon?

You should see a neurosurgeon if you have a condition that might require surgical intervention, such as a brain tumor or spinal cord injury.

What does a neurologist do?

A neurologist diagnoses and treats neurological disorders using non-surgical methods like medication and therapy.

What is the difference between neurology and neurosurgery?

Neurology deals with the diagnosis and non-surgical treatment of neurological disorders, while neurosurgery involves surgical intervention for such conditions.

Can a neurologist refer me to a neurosurgeon?

Yes, neurologists often refer patients to neurosurgeons if surgical treatment is deemed necessary.

Do neurologists perform surgeries?

No, neurologists do not perform surgeries; they focus on non-surgical treatments for neurological conditions.

Can a neurosurgeon manage chronic neurological conditions?

Typically, they focus on surgical aspects, while chronic management is handled by neurologists.

What conditions do neurosurgeons treat?

Neurosurgeons treat conditions that involve surgical intervention, such as brain tumors, aneurysms, and severe spinal issues.

How long does it take to become a neurosurgeon?

It can take 14-16 years or more, including medical school, residency, and often fellowship training.

Do neurosurgeons only work in hospitals?

Mostly, as they require access to operating rooms and specialized surgical equipment.

How long does it take to become a neurologist?

It typically takes around 12-14 years of education and training to become a neurologist, including medical school and residency.

What symptoms might lead me to see a neurologist?

Symptoms like chronic headaches, seizures, numbness, or muscle weakness could prompt a visit to a neurologist.

What is the primary role of a neurosurgeon?

The primary role is to perform surgical procedures to correct neurological problems.

What kind of tests do neurologists perform?

Neurologists perform tests like EEGs, MRIs, and lumbar punctures to diagnose neurological conditions.

Are neurologists and neurosurgeons board certified?

Yes, both require board certification specific to their fields.

Do neurologists treat stroke patients?

Yes, neurologists often manage the treatment and recovery of stroke patients.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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