A neurologist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system. A neurologist’s educational background and medical training includes an undergraduate degree, four years of medical school, a one-year internship and three years of specialized training. Many neurologists also have additional training in one area of neurology such as stroke, epilepsy or movement disorders.
An interventional neurologist is a doctor who is specially trained in neurovascular diseases and imaging. A neurointerventionalist specializes in treating conditions through minimally invasive methods.
A neuropsychologist is a physiologist who specializes in understanding the relationship between the physical brain and behavior. The brain is extremely complex, and disorders within the brain or nervous system can alter behavior and cognitive function.
During a neurological examination, the neurologist reviews the patient’s health history with special attention to the current condition. The patient then takes a neurological exam. Typically the exam tests vision, strength, coordination, reflexes and sensation. This information helps the neurologist determine if the problem is in the nervous system. Further tests may be needed to confirm a diagnosis or to find a specific treatment.
An examination is used when a family doctor seeks a specialized opinion about a patient whose symptoms may involve the brain or nervous system. The examination may also be performed when a patient wants a second opinion from a neurologist. The neurologist’s expertise in disorders of the brain and nervous system can give patient’s effective diagnosis and treatment for neurological disorders.
The American Academy of Neurology supports a patient’s choice to receive principal care services from either a neurologist or other physician. The American Academy of Neurology also supports direct access to neurologists and standing referrals for those who require frequent specialty care because of complex neurological conditions. Advocating for patients, the American Academy of Neurology supports legislation assuring fair treatment of patients with neurological disorders and access to necessary medical care.
Neurologists are principal care providers or consultants to other physicians. When a patient has a neurological disorder that requires frequent care, a neurologist is often the principal care provider. Patients with disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis may use a neurologist as their principal care physician. In a consulting role, a neurologist will diagnosis and treat a neurological disorder and then advise the primary care physician managing the patient’s overall health. For example, a neurologist would act in a consulting role for conditions such as stroke, concussion or headache. Neurologists can recommend surgical treatment, but do not perform surgery. When treatment includes surgery, neurologists will monitor surgically treated patients and supervise their continuing treatment. Neurosurgeons are medical doctors who specialize in performing surgical treatments of the brain or nervous system.
Many disorders can be treated. Treatment or symptomatic relief is different for each condition. To find treatment options, neurologists will perform and interpret tests of the brain or nervous system. Treatment can help patients with neurological disorders maintain the best possible quality of life.