Brain Injury: Six Types of
Neuro Specialists Explained
The term for a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating injuries and diseases of the nervous system is “neurologist”. In the event of an accident that causes trauma or injury to the brain, the physician will refer the patient to a neurologist, but medicine has advanced to such a degree that neurologists can specialize even further, into different areas of treatment of the nervous system.
When an individual can claim damages in a law suit after a brain injury, a good injury lawyer will rely on the expert opinion of a specialist to support a claim, but these specialists also play crucial roles in restoring the brain to health, so that the patient can live a normal and productive life.
Although all of the titles begin with the word “neuro”, there are subtle differences in the specializations, and while they may consult with each other at times, each field is quite clearly defined. This is explained and summarized below.
A neuro radiologist understands what is required for precise and reliable brain imaging, and is experienced in reading those images. This type of specialist relies on X-rays, computerized tomography scans (CT scans), and magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI scans) for diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
For example, to detect a cause for blurred vision or persistent headaches in a patient, a neuro radiologist will order a scan and then look at the images for signs of damage or disease in the brain.
Depending on the area which is damaged, a neuro radiologist may call in a neuro ophthalmologist, a neuro endocrinologist, a neuro psychiatrist/psychologist or a neuro pathologist.
A neuro ophthalmologist will examine and treat the nervous system as it relates to the optic functions of the brain or the visual system. To put it simply, the causes are neurological but the symptoms are optical. This may be an injury to the brain which causes partial or complete loss of sight, or it could be a disease like cancer, in which tumors grow and press on the optic nerve, causing a range of sight-related symptoms.
As Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a relatively new field of study, specialists have only begun to gather reliable data, and a good neuro ophthalmologist will be able to identify symptoms of visual impairment through TBI and link it to a specific cause or injury.
The pituitary is a pea-sized, hormone-producing gland located in the underside of the brain. It is responsible for releasing a number of hormones that regulate the way the body functions. It is linked to the brain by the hypothalamus, which regulates hormone production in conjunction with the pituitary. The hypothalamus also regulates basic bodily functions like thirst, hunger, body temperature and sleep cycle.
Damage to the pituitary or hypothalamus (through TBI, for example) can manifest in a range of different symptoms, such as obesity, reproductive issues, underdeveloped genitalia, loss of kidney function, and a wide range of other conditions. A neuro endocrinologist can diagnose and treat these symptoms, if the cause of the cause of the impairment is damage to either of the endocrine organs within the nervous system.
This kind of specialist is a medical doctor who identifies and treats symptoms related to thought (cognitive) and behavioral processes.
For example, if a patient has suffered a brain injury in a motor vehicle accident, and is displaying symptoms of impulse control (like uncontrollable anger), a neuro psychiatrist can determine whether this is related to the brain injury or not, and will then refer the patient for therapy, if it is not, or work with another specialist and prescribe medication to mitigate the symptoms, if it is.
In most cases, these conditions are treated using medication together with therapy.
A neuro psychologist is a psychologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating emotional and behavioral conditions that stem from injuries or diseases of the brain and nervous system.
This specialist relies on a wide range of structures and therapies to support patients with neurological injuries. A neuro psychologist cannot prescribe medication, but can equip a patient with tools to enable them to regain a better quality of life, and even achieve a level of functionality within society.
A neuro pathologist is a scientist who specializes in detecting and studying abnormalities of the nervous tissue, which can be the brain, spinal cord, or nervous network. A neuro pathologist analyses samples of the tissue itself, along with radiological images like CT and MRI scans. He or she can then diagnose the disease or injury, and recommend a course of action going forward.
These specialists are integral to the purpose of the medical profession: that of restoring dignity, independence and quality of life to victims of injury and disease. In the treatment of TBI and other conditions of the nervous system, keeping track of referrals may become overwhelming. It helps to have an easy reference guide to understand all of these unique roles.
Did you find this article helpful? Share your thoughts with friends...