There is a lot of misunderstanding in the medical community regarding the distinction between an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon regarding spine surgery.

Which is better, an orthopedic spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon? is one of the questions that patients frequently ask while considering spine surgery. The gist of the answer is that most spine surgeries may be performed by neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons with specialized training. The two fields are compared and contrasted in this article, providing additional advice on picking a spine surgeon.

Neurosurgeon vs Orthopedic Surgeon

Orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons receive separate training in different medical specialties, the biggest and most fundamental difference between the two doctors. The major distinction between orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons will always boil down to a difference in training and specialized skill, even in cases where both areas overlap, as in the case of orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons who treat the spine.

So what are those requirements? And how can patients tell an orthopedic surgeon from a neurosurgeon?

Before examining the most distinct difference between an orthopedic spine surgeon and a neurosurgeon in terms of training, proficiency, and specialization, we’ll first define the two medical specialties of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery.

Orthopedic surgery 

The field of medicine known as orthopedics focuses on problems involving the musculoskeletal system. This system includes all of the body’s bones, tendons, ligaments, joints, and muscles. An orthopedic surgeon is prepared to perform various surgical operations to address musculoskeletal diseases. Hip replacement, carpal tunnel release, knee arthroscopy, and meniscectomy are a few of the most widespread orthopedic procedures.

A specialization in orthopedic surgery may be studied and trained by orthopedic surgeons. Some of these subspecialties deal with certain body parts, like the elbow or knee, while others are concerned with surgical procedures, such as adult joint reconstruction or pediatric surgery. In sports medicine, many orthopedic surgeons treat athletes for musculoskeletal disorders that only manifest as a result of the stress, strain, and injury that come with athletic wear and tear on the body. And certainly, some orthopedic surgeons do undergo further specialized training in treating spinal disorders.

In actuality, scoliosis is one spinal problem that orthopedic surgeons typically treat.


A five to six-year residency program specializing in the surgical treatment of neurological diseases is required of neurosurgeons, who can be either medical doctors or doctors of osteopathic medicine. Neurosurgeons have received training in the identification and management of conditions involving:

  • spine and spinal cord,
  • the brain
  • Nerves
  • internal and external spinal veins

Neurosurgeons can specialize in spine or brain surgery and combine the two in their practice.

Important distinctions between orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons

What differences exist between an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon now that we have defined orthopedics and neurosurgery? The biggest and most visible distinction is that orthopedics and neurosurgeons have separate training in many medical specialties!


The average length of a neurosurgery residency is 7-8 years. Residents in neurosurgery undergo daily training in both brain and spine procedures, with roughly 60–70% of their time spent specifically on spine procedures. Some neurosurgeons may choose to complete an additional year of fellowship training to specialize in intricate or advanced spine surgery.

Contrarily, an orthopedic residency normally lasts only five years and only occasionally involves experience with spine surgery.

Many orthopedic surgeons will pursue additional fellowship training to learn how to perform spine procedures to make up for this short exposure to spine surgeries during their residency. Dual fellowship training is something that certain orthopedic surgeons will obtain; normally, this only means that the orthopedic surgeon in question collaborated with neurosurgeons early in their training.

Specialized Competence 

Neurosurgeons are often experts in complicated microsurgical techniques for disorders that involve the nerves in the spine, including minimally invasive spine surgery. While musculoskeletal deformities like scoliosis, kyphosis, and some other spinal operations that interact with the pelvic region are generally better treated by orthopedic surgeons who have completed a spine surgery fellowship.

Bottom Line

A Neurosurgeon Newport Beach who performs neurological spine surgery can typically treat your back and neck-related issues.

The most significant consideration is whether you feel comfortable with the doctor or choose a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon for spine surgery. Visit a Spine Surgeon Newport Beach for the appropriate one, for more information call (949) 383-4185.