gms | German Medical Science

65th Annual Meeting of the German Society of Neurosurgery (DGNC)

German Society of Neurosurgery (DGNC)

11 - 14 May 2014, Dresden

Image of neurosurgery in the media

Meeting Abstract

  • Merle Pilz - Klinik für Neurochirurgie, Universitätsklinikum Münster
  • Benjamin Brokinkel - Klinik für Neurochirurgie, Universitätsklinikum Münster
  • Michael Schwake - Klinik für Neurochirurgie, Universitätsklinikum Münster
  • Walter Stummer - Klinik für Neurochirurgie, Universitätsklinikum Münster
  • Markus Holling - Klinik für Neurochirurgie, Universitätsklinikum Münster

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie. 65. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie (DGNC). Dresden, 11.-14.05.2014. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2014. DocP 077

doi: 10.3205/14dgnc473, urn:nbn:de:0183-14dgnc4737

Published: May 13, 2014

© 2014 Pilz et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Objective: Neurosurgical practice is a common topic in English and German TV series and movies. This contributes to a permanent impression of neurosurgical techniques, especially as the majority of the audience has no other access to neurosurgery. In those series neurosurgery may be the central topic of the plot, especially in doctor`s series or diseases treated by neurosurgeons e.g. brain tumors may be a dramatic attribute of one of the protagonists. One might assume that medical consultancy is utilized during the preparation of TV series, but apparently this is not usually the case. The aim of the study was to analyze the portrait of neurosurgery in all available TV series and movies with respect to the following aspects: Is the depiction of neurosurgery realistic? Do the demonstrated neurosurgical diseases show an adequate pathology? Which personal impression do the neurosurgeons leave?

Method: Films and series with a focus on neurosurgical diseases and portraits of neurosurgeons were identified. Not included were documentations and other non-fictional formats.

Results: About 35 episodes of several TV-series, including e.g. Emergency Room and Private Practice as well as German and American movies were analyzed. Neurosurgery itself seems to be a prestigious profession where lots of lives are being saved, whereas neurosurgeons are depicted as difficult people to deal with. Also they are shown as antisocial and tending to have problems with drug addiction. Their abominable behaviour is seen as well towards their colleagues as well as towards their patients. Especially in the movies analyzed neurosurgeons appear as rather short spoken and reserved. Surprisingly, in the material the neurosurgeons themselves are self-pleased. Also the depiction of the neurosurgical pathologies is often distorted, e.g. when an astrocytoma leads to telekinesis or when necrotic brain tissue recovers ad integrum.

Conclusions: No clear difference can be seen between American and German series or between older (1996) and rather new (2010) films. All analyzed material share a critical view on neurosurgeons and their profession, mainly misrepresenting the actual medical practice and surely the interpersonal conduct.