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The word neurology comes from combining the Greek terms neuron, which means “nerve,” with logos, which means “study.” Neurology is the field of medicine that focuses on disorders of the nervous system and the brain. A neurologist may be a physician who specializes in neurology, devoting his or her time to researching or to diagnosing and treating neurological diseases. Alternatively, a neurologist may be a neurosurgeon, a specialist in operations on the nerves, brain, and spinal cord. The word pediatric comes from the Greek word for child, and a pediatric neurologist, also called a specialist in Child Neurology, has a practice that is focused on the treatment of infants and children.
The training for a pediatric neurologist who trains as a neurosurgeon — like the training for any neurosurgical specialty — is the longest of any specialty, at least in the United States. Pediatric neurosurgeons do repairs on malformations, congenital and otherwise, as well as remove pathological growths, treat injuries, and implant medical devices. During diagnosis as well as during surgery, a pediatric neurosurgeon may use a variety of different imaging techniques, including CT (Computed Tomography), MEG (Magnetoencephalography), MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), and PET (Positron Emission Tomography).The pediatric neurologist may also be primarily involved in research. Neuroimaging techniques that are often used in research include EEG (Electroencephalography), as well as fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), NIRS (Near Infrared Spectroscopy), Single-Cell Recording, TDCS (Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation), and TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation).
Issues that are often treated by a pediatric neurosurgeon include tumors of the brain and spinal cord, which fall in the realm of pediatric neuro-oncology. Other diagnoses that are frequently handled include craniosynostosis, or early closing of the skull sutures; hydrocephalus, or build-up of fluid in the brain, intractable epilepsy; as well as spina bifida, the failure of the backbone and spinal cord to close before birth; syringomyelia, spinal cord damage caused by an area filled with fluid; and other deformities of the spine. Pediatric neurologists often team with other doctors, either when their patients’ diagnoses are at the juncture of two or more medical specialties or when there is a primary care physician — in the case of children, a pediatrician — who should have a role in treatment. A pediatric neurologist may also provide prenatal counseling.
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