What is a Neurosurgeon?

A neurosurgeon diagnoses and treats disorders that affect the body’s nervous system. This complex network of the body comprises two smaller systems:

  • Central nervous system—the brain, spinal cord, and surrounding skull and spine
  • Peripheral nervous system—the cranial and spinal nerves outside the central nervous system

The nervous system serves as a sort of messenger service to the rest of the body, including hands, arms, feet, legs, and all the sensory organs. The communication the nervous system sends out controls all of one’s basic body functions: speaking, breathing, swallowing, walking, and learning. The nervous system also manages how our body responds to emergencies and threatening situations. 

What Conditions Do Neurosurgeons Treat?

A neurosurgeon works on conditions and injuries that affect the nervous system. Since it’s such an intricate network responsible for all the movements that a human body performs, a neurosurgeon must be particularly trained to operate with utmost precision and care on the nervous system.

The health issues a neurosurgeon diagnose and treat include:

  • Strokes and aneurysms
  • Injuries to the head, neck and spinal cord
  • Tumors and cysts
  • Spinal conditions, including herniated discs, vertebral fractures, scoliosis, sciatica, osteoarthritis, tethered spinal cord syndrome, spina bifida, lumbar spinal stenosis, spinal infections, and more
  • Neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
  • Carotid artery disease
  • Hydrocephalus

As a fully certified clinic of neurosurgeons in Colorado, BNA’s doctors comprise some of the top neurosurgeons in Denver and Boulder are deeply experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of the most troubling conditions affecting the nervous system. 

What Procedures do Neurosurgeon Perform?

A neurosurgeon performs medical procedures to treat or repair conditions of the nervous system, blood flow to the brain, and other operations, including:

  • Surgery on spine, cervical spine, skull, pituitary, peripheral nerves
  • Coiling and microsurgical repair of aneurysms
  • Microvascular decompression
  • Excision of brain tumors
  • Embolization procedures

A neurosurgeon is also actively involved in helping patients prevent conditions that affect the nervous system. They also help rehabilitate and treat patients who have undergone brain or spinal surgery. BNA’s medical staff are among the most accomplished neurosurgeons in Boulder and Denver for both minimally invasive and more major operations to repair spinal afflictions.

What is the Education and Experience of a Neurosurgeon?

Since the areas of the human body a neurosurgeon oversees is so complex and crucial, the training and experience they get are time-intensive and extensive. The education and career path of a neurosurgeon typically include:

  • Four years of pre-med at a college or university
  • Four years of medical school to obtain an MD or OD degree
  • One year of post-graduate internship
  • Five to seven years of residency at a hospital or brain clinic

Neurosurgeons also participate in fellowships and medical conferences to maintain their knowledge of the latest, most effective treatments for the disorders they manage. BNA’s doctors are fully approved and certified from accredited neurosurgical associations, and their combined accomplishments in research, publication, and education rank them amongst some of the most expert neurosurgeons in Colorado.

When should you see a neurosurgeon?

Most of the time, a patient is referred to a specialist by their primary care provider, or whoever they would normally see in cases of pain, discomfort, or other symptoms. A general practitioner may refer their patient to a neurosurgeon if they can’t readily treat conditions like back or neck pain, pinched nerves, herniated discs, concussions, brain trauma, or other symptoms. A neurologist may also send a client to a neurosurgeon for more advanced treatment.

Being sent to a neurosurgeon doesn’t necessarily mean you need surgery. Many neurosurgeons prefer to prescribe conservative, non-invasive treatments for patients experiencing typical back or neck pain. More often than not, a patient will not advance to surgery, especially if physical therapy, prescribed medications, exercise, or other non-surgical practices are successful.

Only if a patient’s condition fails to improve, gets worse, or threatens to jeopardize their health should more invasive surgery be required.

Meet the staff at Boulder Neurological & Spine Associates

Our staff of specialists includes some of the most experienced, educated, and compassionate neurosurgeons in Colorado, covering both neurosurgical and orthopedic spine conditions. BNA’s physicians focus on minimally invasive procedures and bring a multidisciplinary approach to the back, neck, and spinal conditions they diagnose and manage.


Alan T. Villavicencio, MD

Dr. Villavicencio is a senior managing partner and Director of Research and Development at Boulder Neurosurgical & Spine Associates. He’s a graduate of Harvard Medical School and served his residency at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. Dr. Villavicencio is one of only a very few American surgeons with dual neurosurgery and orthopedic spine training, with deep experience in minor and major reconstructive spine surgery. He also treats scoliosis, spinal deformities, and brain disorders, and performs as many as 500 operations in a single year. Dr. Villavicencio also serves as chairman of the Justin Parker Neurological Institute, a non-profit he co-founded in 2003 dedicated to curing brain and spine conditions through innovative technology.


  • Minimally Invasive and Complex Spine Surgery
  • Brain Disorders
  • Scoliosis Surgery

Kara Beasley, DO

Dr. Beasley is one of the few dually credentialed neurosurgeons and bioethicists in the world. She obtained her degree and a Master of Arts from Midwestern University in Glendale, AZ, and further trained and served a fellowship at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic. Her concentrations as a neurosurgeon include cranial and spinal trauma, endoscopic and open tumor surgery, radiosurgery, complex spine disorders, degenerative spinal disease, epilepsy surgery, and neuromodulation. Among her many awards for research and writing is her selection as one of Becker’s Spine Review’s Top 34 Trailblazing Female Spine Surgeons.


  • Minimally Invasive and Complex Spine Surgery
  • Brain Disorders
  • Deep Brain Stimulation for Movement Disorders
  • Neuromodulation for Refractory Chronic Pain
  • Epilepsy Surgical Treatment