What Is Neurointerventional Surgery?

Neurointerventional Surgeon Training and Procedures

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What Treatments Do Neurointerventional Surgeons Provide?
In the brain, neurointerventional surgery allows the minimally invasive treatment of diseases that before either required large operations or were not possible.  Specialists in this field insert tiny catheters from an artery in the groin, and deliver those catheters to the affected brain artery, treating neurovascular conditions by using sophisticate devices to either plug or open up brain arteries.

Neurointerventional surgeons have long-held an interest in minimally invasive spine care.  In the 1990s, the field was the first in the United States to adopt a technique, vertebroplasty, whereby a needle was inserted through the back into a fractured vertebra to inject cement, essentially casting a broken back from the inside.

Neurointerventional surgeons can also treat common causes of back pain by precisely guiding tiny needles, under x-ray guidance, to the source of a patient’s pain.  Anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medications can be injected at the spinal nerve or the spinal joints to eliminate pain.  This may allow healing without surgery and can allow the patient to actively pursue physical therapy.

Recently, the field has adopted techniques to treat back and neck pain due to herniated disc by passing a small tube through the skin into the disc and either sucking out, vaporizing, or mechanically removing disc.  Sometimes the procedure is accomplished through the use of a tiny camera, an endoscope, passed through the cannula (tube) and into the disc.  The procedure may serve to alleviate back pain without a large surgical incision in the back or removal of normal structures, like bone, ligaments or muscle.  The procedure works by removing herniated disc or arthritic bone that may be compressing a spinal nerve.

Similarly, neurointerventional surgeons have been at the forefront of evaluating minimally invasive techniques for the treatment of patients suffering from back and leg pain due to spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal.  Several procedures are currently the subject of active research.

Questions to Ask Your Neurointerventional Surgeon

  • What specialty are you board certified in?
  • Were you fellowship-trained in a dedicated neurointerventional program?
  • What additional training in spine disorders do you have?
  • What percentage of your practice pertains to spine?
  • Are you open to a second opinion?
  • Are you willing to refer me to former patients to share their experiences?

Questions to Ask about Your Spinal Disorder and Treatment

  • Can the disorder be treated without surgery?
  • What procedures are needed and why?
  • What is the relative advantage of undergoing a minimally invasive procedure?
  • What are the disadvantages of undergoing a minimally invasive procedure?
  • What are the risks of the procedure?
  • Does the surgeon perform this procedure often?
  • What is the complexity of the procedure?
  • What is the success rate for the procedure?
Updated on: 12/10/18
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This article was reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD.
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