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What Skills Do You Need to Become a Neurosurgeon?

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The field of neurosurgery involves not only the brain but also the central, peripheral and autonomic nervous systems of the body, along with its vascular support structures. A neurosurgeon must have all the skills of a general practicing surgeon, in addition to those needed to successfully diagnose, repair or treat injuries and diseases of these specific areas of the body.

Medical Diagnostics

According to the Department of Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Georgia, a neurosurgeon is required to develop medical diagnostic skills in reading images taken of a patient's body. This can include diagnosing bone injuries through X-rays and tissue damage via magnetic resonance imaging or through physical inspection of a patient's brain, spine or skull while in surgery. A thorough knowledge of human anatomy is necessary, as are good communication skills when speaking with patients.

Surgical Skills

A neurosurgeon is required to develop surgical skills to deal with injuries and diseases of the spinal cord, brain, skull and surrounding tissues. At any point, a neurosurgeon could be called upon to perform difficult medical procedures, such as a cranial reconstruction or the removal of an aneurysm before it ruptures. These surgical skills also involve diagnostic surgeries and procedures, such as biopsies of diseased tissues and lumbar punctures to collect spinal fluid.

Medical Computers and Technology

Surgeries involving the brain and spinal cord have zero margin for error, with even the slightest nick potentially causing irreparable damage. For this reason, a neurosurgeon is required to develop skills working with medical computers that control robotic arms to make precise incisions. A neurosurgeon also must be skilled in working with power tools, because cutting into the skull often involves the use of a medical drill or other cutting instrument.

Physical and Mental Skills

Surgery is a grueling process often lasting many hours. This is especially true of delicate areas of the human body like the brain and the spine. A neurosurgeon must develop the mental toughness and physical endurance to work at a high level of focus and dexterity for the entire length of a surgery. Any lapse in focus or a slip of the hand could cost a patient her life or the use of limbs.


Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.

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