• Katerina Tolkachev

Neurology

Neurology is one of the areas you can specialize in during medical school. But what do neurologists do, exactly?

Neurologists specialize with evaluation and treatment of diseases or impaired function of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, muscles, and autonomic nervous systems. They typically diagnose and treat disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer's, Multiple sclerosis, and Epilepsy.

Because neurologists specialize in diagnosing and treating disorders of the brain and nervous systems, they often act as consultants to neurosurgeons, who perform surgeries to treat the condition they diagnose. Neurologists use a variety of tests to accurately diagnose a patient. Although they do not actually perform surgery, they work closely with neurosurgeons and perform intraoperative monitoring.

In order to complete neurologist training, you must go to medical school and pass the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 exams. After medical school, you need to complete at least three years in specialized residency training. Upon completion of your residency and once you pass the written exam by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, you will officially become a licensed neurologist.

Oftentimes, neurologists in training invest in one or two additional years of training in a subspecialty. These subspecialties focus on certain disorders and sections of neurology. Some of these subspecialties include:

  • Epilepsy specialists determine the root causes of epilepsy and seizures and explain treatment options and prevention measures.

  • Neuro-Oncology combines expertise in neurology and cancer biology to diagnose, manage, and treat primary brain tumors and neurological complications of cancer.

  • Neuromuscular neurologists treat a variety of muscular diseases including myasthenia gravis, muscular dystrophy, and myotonic dystrophy.

  • Child Neurology combines a special expertise in diagnosing and treating disorders of the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, muscles, nerves) with an understanding of medical disorders in childhood and the special needs of the child and his or her family and environment.

Those who want to practice a subspecialty must obtain additional training and qualifications, such as completing a one to two year fellowship.

Neurologists use many tests to determine the cause of and find neurological problems within their patients. Common tests include an Electroencephalogram (EEG), Computerized Tomography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or a CT scan, Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Lumbar Punctures or Spinal Taps, and motor function and balance tests, along with blood tests. They take into account certain factors like medical history, mental status, vision, coordination, reflexes, and sensation.

Some of the benefits of working as a neurologist is having medical and dental insurance, health care reimbursement accounts, life insurance, long term care disability insurance, and worker’s compensation insurance. In 2019, the average neurologist’s salary was $244,000, but salaries vary depending on where you work and whether you practice a subspecialty.