Neurologist

Neurologists are medical doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the nervous system, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles, for example Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and brain tumours.


Despite the bony protection of the vertebrae and skull, the spinal cord and brain can be injured, and sometimes, terrible consequences follow such injury. The brain is truly the master organ, controlling the activities of body systems and organs; it is the seat of emotion, reason and consciousness and the centre of short- and long-term memory.

The integrative functioning of the nervous system is based primarily on connectivity between the neurons. This is an exciting branch of medicine, as neurologists are discovering more and more information regarding the role of the brain in human behaviour. The nervous system includes the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), the peripheral nervous system - the cranial and spinal nerves, the autonomic nervous system and all the senses - auditory, visual etc.

Neurologists perform neurological examinations of patients to obtain information about the functional status of areas such as vision, physical strength, coordination, reflexes, sensations, language skills, cognitive abilities and mental status.  They identify and treat major neurological diseases and disorders such as central nervous system infection, cranio-spinal trauma, dementia and stroke. They interview patients to obtain information such as complaints, symptoms, medical histories and family histories. They perform or interpret the results of procedures or diagnostic tests such as lumbar punctures, elecroencephalography, electromyography and nerve conduction speed tests.  They develop treatment plans based on diagnoses and evaluation of factors such as age and general health, or procedural risks and costs, and may order supportive care services such as physical therapy, specialised nursing care and social services.  They have to inform the patients or families of neurological diagnoses and prognoses, or benefits, risks and costs of various treatment plans.


They prepare, maintain or review records that include patients' histories, neurological examination findings, treatment plans, or outcomes.  They need to prescribe or administer medications, such as anti-epileptic drugs, and monitor patients for behavioural and cognitive side effects.  Other tasks are to advise other physicians on the treatment of neurological problems, and refer patients to other health care practitioners when necessary.


Neurologists also participate in neuroscience research and provide training to medical students or staff members.

The diagnostic tests which they use, and interpret, are:



  • CAT (computed axial tomography) scan

  • MRI/MRA (magnetic resonance imaging/magnetic resonance angiography)

  • lumbar puncture (spinal tap)

  • EEG (electroencephalography)

  • EMG/NCV (electromyography/nerve conduction velocity) sease, multiple sclerosis and brain tumours. 


Employment


  • state hospitals and clinics

  • self-employment, in private practice or in a partnership


Getting Started


  • read up about the nervous system

  • arrange to speak to neurologists about this career


Programmes

Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, University of Cape Town, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch, University of the Free State, University of the Witwatersrand


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