Neurologist (M.D. or D.O)—A neurologist specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the nervous system, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles (such as strokes, epilepsy, headaches, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, and various forms of pain). Neurologists may serve as a consultant to other physicians as well as providing long-term care to patients with chronic neurological disorders.
Neurologists are trained to perform a detailed examination of all the important neurological structures in the body. This includes the nerves of the head and neck, the muscular strength and movement, sensation, balance testing, ambulation and reflex testing. Importantly, an examination by a neurologist can be helpful in distinguishing a primary neurological problem (e.g. multiple sclerosis) from a musculoskeletal disorder.
Neurologists rely on the clinical examination along with certain other commonly used tests (such as CAT Scans and MRI/MRA scans). These tests can provide detailed anatomic pictures of the brain, spinal structures and the blood vessels. A neurologist can also perform a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to obtain the cerebrospinal fluid for analysis. Some neurologists interpret EEG (electroencephalography) used in the evaluation of seizure disorders, or perform EMG/NCV (electromyography/nerve conduction velocity testing) which is used to diagnose nerve and muscle problems.
Neurologists use many forms of medication to treat problems involving the nervous system. They may send patients to other specialists for some forms of treatment. A neurologist may refer a patient to a surgeon for a surgical evaluation, but does not perform surgery.