What is Clinical Neurology?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Clinical neurology is the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have neurological conditions. It is a non-surgical, patient-oriented specialty practice in medicine. There are certainly neurologists who might participate in research or teaching and don’t have much contact with patients. In these cases, these doctors would not be practicing clinical neurology, since clinical tends to be defined as having to do with patient care.

A neurologist may treat a patient who is experiencing chronic migraines or other headaches.
A neurologist may treat a patient who is experiencing chronic migraines or other headaches.

Neurology is an important branch of medicine that is concerned with the nervous system. While this includes conditions that can affect the brain, the specialty does not exclusively deal with brain disorders or injury. Other parts of the nervous system can become dysfunctional or diseased including the spine, the nerves and the muscles.

Clinical neurology is distinct from neurosurgeons, who are qualified to perform surgery on the brain.
Clinical neurology is distinct from neurosurgeons, who are qualified to perform surgery on the brain.

It should be understood that clinical neurology is not the same as neurosurgery. Though both are concerned with the nervous system, only the neurosurgeon performs surgery. The path to each specialty is very different, and though these doctors may work together, especially if a neurologist recommends surgery for a patient, they’re two very different specialties.

Neurology is a medical specialty that focuses on conditions of the brain and other parts of the human nervous system.
Neurology is a medical specialty that focuses on conditions of the brain and other parts of the human nervous system.

Some of the conditions that might be addressed in clinical neurology include the treatment of brain damage as caused by traumatic injury or stroke. Neurologists additionally work with people with deteriorating mental conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or multiple sclerosis, and they may manage patients with ongoing disorders like chronic headaches or migraines, and seizure disorders.

Dysfunctions and diseases of the spine are included in clinical neurology.
Dysfunctions and diseases of the spine are included in clinical neurology.

There of other conditions that those specializing in clinical neurology might be called upon to diagnose or treat. Neurologists may manage chronic pain conditions involving the peripheral nerves or muscles. Some forms of paralysis, especially as relating to spinal cord damage are treated or overseen by these doctors. Other conditions that might require the services of neurology are infections of the spine or brain, and cerebral palsy.

Clinical neurologists might focus on diseases such as dementia which affect the elderly.
Clinical neurologists might focus on diseases such as dementia which affect the elderly.

Treatment for a few conditions may overlap into other specialties. There is growing argument, for instance, that neurologists are just as capable of treating biologically based mental illnesses, as are psychiatrists. Things like stroke may be dually managed by cardiologists or vascular specialists and neurologists, or by either specialty alone. However, if significant brain injury has occurred, a neurologist almost always is part of the team of doctors giving treatment.

A clinical neurologist may specialize in pediatrics.
A clinical neurologist may specialize in pediatrics.

Since clinical neurology is a specialty, it means doctors will train extensively to achieve board certification in this area. In addition to completing the four years of medical school, they will need to complete a four-year residency. Neurologists may continue training to specialize yet more in a specific field, like in the treatment of dementia. When doctors want to work with children, they have a different route to follow for specializing in clinical neurology. They must first get a medical degree, do a residency in pediatrics, and then complete training in pediatric neurology.

Multiple sclerosis is a condition that may be addressed with clinical neurology.
Multiple sclerosis is a condition that may be addressed with clinical neurology.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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