Dr James Laban – What is a Neurosurgeon?


A neurosurgeon is a doctor who specialises in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of conditions that affect the central nervous system (the brain and spine) and the peripheral nervous system. Examples of the types of conditions that neurosurgeons treat include:

  • back and neck pain;
  • intervertebral disc disease including disc prolapses / bulging discs;
  • degenerative spine conditions;
  • brain, skull base, spine and peripheral nerve tumours;
  • neurovascular compression syndromes such as trigeminal neuralgia;
  • brain and spinal vascular anomalies aneurysms;
  • infections of the brain or spine;
  • head, neck, spinal and peripheral nerve injuries;
  • hydrocephalus;
  • epilepsy and movement disorders.


Neurosurgeons undergo extensive training before being admitted as a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and permitted to practice as an independent specialist neurosurgeon in Australia.

Medicine is a graduate entry course which means you must complete a bachelor’s degree before commencing your post-graduate medical studies. The majority of students undertake a 3 year undergraduate degree first and then apply for a 4 year post-graduate medical school degree (e.g. MD, MBBS, BMBS, MBBCH).

After successful completion of medical school, a one-year internship is followed by residency and registrar training. Neurosurgical specialty training is extremely competitive. It usually takes several years as a resident and registrar before being selected to the training programme. It then requires a further 5 to 9 years to complete this higher specialist neurosurgical training.

This is usually complemented by one or more fellowships, undertaken after the completion of training, where neurosurgeons gain further skill in one or more neurosurgical sub-specialties. Neurosurgeons, as with other specialities, are also required to continue to undertake professional development each year throughout their career.

There are various sub-specialities within neurosurgery which include:

  • spinal surgery: the surgical management of degenerative conditions, prolapsed discs, trauma;
  • neuro-oncology: the surgical management of brain and spinal tumours;
  • neurovascular surgery: complex aneurysms and abnormal or narrowed blood vessels;
  • skull base surgery: skull base tumours and disorders of the skull base;
  • peripheral nerve surgery: surgical management of peripheral nerve disorders;
  • functional neurosurgery: this involves the surgical management of a range of conditions such as epilepsy and movement disorders.


What is the Nervous System?

The nervous system is comprised of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.  The central nervous system is made up of the brain and the spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system is made up of nerves that connect your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. Neurons, which are cells within the nervous system, receive sensory input and relay information to other cells and muscles. The nervous system controls your basic bodily functions such as breathing and sweating. It is responsible for movement, learning and memory and it controls your senses.

What is a Neurologist?

A neurologist is a doctor who treats disorders affecting the brain, spine and peripheral nervous system which do not require surgical intervention. In contrast, neurosurgeons look after patients with conditions affecting the brain, spine and peripheral nervous system which may require surgery as part of their treatment.

What does a Neurosurgeon do?

A neurosurgeon diagnoses conditions affecting the brain, spine and peripheral nervous system and provides surgical treatment options. The following are examples of operations undertaken by neurosurgeons and which Dr James Laban performs:

  • minimally invasive spine surgery;
  • degenerative spine and disc protrusion surgery (including laminectomy and microdiscectomy);
  • spinal fusion surgery;
  • cervical spine surgery, thoracic spine surgery and lumbar spine surgery;
  • brain tumour surgery;
  • spine tumour surgery;
  • microvascular decompression;
  • peripheral nerve surgery;
  • skull base surgery;
  • pituitary surgery;
  • shunt surgery.

Best Neurosurgeon Sydney

Future articles will discuss the above procedures in more detail. If you are concerned about any symptoms you have, do contact us to book an appointment. You will be able to discuss your problem with Dr Laban and, after appropriate investigation, he will offer tailor-made advice about the diagnosis and treatment options.

Dr Laban is a dual-certified, experienced and internationally-respected neurosurgeon. He is a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and of Royal College of Surgeons of England and has trained, worked, published and presented nationally and internationally. Dr Laban works out of his Double Bay and North Shore Private Hospital consulting rooms.