Angie's LIST Guide to
Pediatric neurosurgery

Specialists in pediatric neurosurgery diagnose, treat and manage issues related to the nervous system. These neurosurgeons work with children who may face serious conditions related to nervous system disorders.


Children often are diagnosed with illnesses and conditions that affect adults, but because of their special needs, they are often referred to pediatric specialists. Specialists in all areas can provide treatment plans to improve health and quality of life.
Children often are diagnosed with illnesses and conditions that affect adults, but because of their special needs, they are often referred to pediatric specialists. Specialists in all areas can provide treatment plans to improve health and quality of life.

Training and skills for a pediatric neurosurgeon

Children experience neurosurgical issues that are often markedly different from those that affect adults, which is why pediatric neurosurgeons complete extensive pediatric training in addition to the standard program for general neurosurgery.

People often confuse neurosurgeons with neurologists. While both doctors treat disorders related to the nervous system, only neurosurgeons are authorized to practice surgical intervention as a treatment.

Pediatric neurosurgeons must have successfully completed a minimum of four years of medical school at an accredited institution, followed by a one-year surgical internship. In addition to this training, they must complete at least five years of residency training focused on neurological surgery and further training in pediatric neurosurgery. They then get certification through both the American Board of Pediatric Neurological Surgery and the American Board of Neurological Surgery.

These specialists make pediatric care the center of their practice and learn the unique nature of the surgical and medical care of young patients through practice and training experience.

Pediatric neurosurgeons see patients who represent a wide range of ages, from newborns to older teenagers. Many patients need to receive care throughout their lives and will want to build a longstanding relationship with their pediatric neurosurgeon over years of ongoing care and close follow-up.

What pediatric neurosurgeons treat

Pediatric neurosurgeons are specially trained to diagnose, treat and manage disorders that affect the nervous system, head and spine of children. Although nervous system disorders can produce varying symptoms, many patients may experience developmental delays in such abilities as walking, speaking or sitting up, as well as a lack of growth or changes in reflexes and movement.

Children may seek the services of a pediatric endocrinologist for issues related to coordination, changes in mood or consciousness level, tremors, muscle rigidity, seizures, slurred speech or muscle wasting. In addition to these symptoms, patients also may experience severe headaches, visual changes, numbness or tingling. These symptoms can point to a variety of nervous system disorders caused by trauma, tumors, autoimmune disorders, structural defects, infections, disruption of blood flow or degeneration.

Pediatric neurosurgeons may treat patients for conditions such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, brain tumors, headaches, sleep disorders, neurometabolic disorders, developmental delays, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy.

Choosing the right pediatric neurosurgeon

Although less than 200 pediatric neurosurgeons practice in the United States, you can find many of these specialists affiliated with children's hospitals. Your child's general pediatrician can offer a trustworthy referral, but you also may contact local children's hospitals to connect with a pediatric neurosurgeon. The American Board of Pediatric Neurological Surgery also can offer a list of pediatric neurosurgeons in your area.

Referrals are a great way to start a search, but you shouldn't rely on them alone in choosing the right specialist for their child. The pediatric neurosurgeon you select will play a significant role in your child's health and should be qualified for the job both professionally and personally.

Treating children requires a special type of person, one with patience, compassion, a sense of humor and a level gentleness. Specialists must know how to describe and perform complex medical procedures and diagnoses in a kid-friendly way. The right pediatric neurosurgeon will make both you and your child comfortable during every visit, even during difficult times. When searching for a competent and capable pediatric neurosurgeon, consider these characteristics. No referral can match the experience from other parents, so refer to Angie's List for member reviews and ratings when investigating these surgical specialists.

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