Member Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties

For the Public

About ABNS Certification

What is the American Board of Neurological Surgery?

  • The American Board of Neurological Surgery is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1940 to assess the qualifications of individuals in the field of neurological surgery.
  • The ABNS offers primary board certification in neurological surgery and Recognition of Focus Practice credentials in Pediatric Neurosurgery, CNS endovascular surgery, and Neurocritical Care.
  • The ABNS is one of 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

What Does it Mean to Be Board Certified?

  • Board certification by the ABNS is a voluntary process that demonstrates a neurosurgeon’s commitment to professionalism, lifelong learning, and quality patient care.
  • Board certification indicates that neurosurgeons certified by the ABNS have achieved and met a higher standard.
  • These individuals have completed seven years of residency training, the longest in medicine.
  • They have met all ABNS training requirements, and successfully completed a rigorous credentials review and ABNS examination process.
  • A physician must possess a medical license from each state in which they practice; Board certification is different from medical licensure.
  • Individual privilege decisions happen at the local level. ABNS requires proof that individual privileges remain intact, and no action has been taken against those privileges.
  • ABNS awards a 10-year time limited certificate.

Continuous Certification

  • To maintain their certificate, neurosurgeons must complete annual requirements. The annual requirements focus on professionalism, professional standing, continuous medical education (outside of practice), and review of the annual learning tool that features articles based on level 1 evidence.  The Continuous Certification, a continuous professional development program with ongoing requirements for learning and assessment replace Maintenance of Certification.
  • By meeting the requirements of the ABNS Continuous Certification Program, neurosurgeons demonstrate that they are making a concerted effort to stay up to date and to safely, sustain and improve the quality of patient care.

What does it take to become Board Certified?

Education and Training

  • Medical School: Surgeons seeking board certification by the ABNS must have graduated from an accredited medical school.
  • Residency Training: Following medical school, surgeons must complete eighty-four months of neurosurgical residency training in an ACGME accredited program.
  • Experience: During their training, they must acquire extensive operative experience. ABNS and ACGME have established an minimum number of cases that need to be completed during residency.

Application and credential review

  • Prior to completion of residency, neurosurgeons  must register for an ABNS POST aacount.
    • Within 6 months of starting practice, neurosurgeons must submit 10 consecutive surgical cases for review by a member of the ABNS Board of Directors.
  • Application: Practicing neurosurgons must apply for board certification by the ABNS. When applying, they must fully document their training and operative experience, and the director of their training program must attest to their surgical skills, ethics and professionalism, among other things.
    • Medical License: All neurosurgeons must hold a U.S. medical license before they can become certified.
    • ABNS POST: Practicing neurosurgeons must submit a case log of, at least, 125 consecutive cases where they are the primary surgeon. This case log is reviewed by a board-certified neurosurgeon.
  • Approval: If the application and ABNS case log are approved, the neurosurgeon is invited to sit for the ABNS oral examination.

Examination and certification

  • Primary Exam:  Neurosurgery residents must pass a lengthy in-training examination known as the Primary (written) Examination, which evaluates a residents knowledge and provides direction for continued learning.
  • Neuroanatomy Exam:  Second year (PGY2) neurosurgery residents must master the content in the neuroanatomy examination. ABNS believes that neuroanatomy is essential to becoming an excellent neurosurgeon.
  • Oral Exam: Neurosurgeons must then pass an oral examination which tests surgical judgment and decision making. Candidates are examined by board certified neurosurgeons who evaluate their ability to diagnose, treat diverse surgical problems and their professionalism.
  • Certification: If successful on both examinations, the surgeon is deemed board certified and becomes a “diplomate” of the ABNS.

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