Mark Hadley in the ORThe section of spinal neurosurgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is a well-established and expanding service of the Department of Neurosurgery under Chair, James M. Markert, M.D. Led by internationally renowned spinal cord/spinal column neurosurgeons - Drs. Mark N. Hadley, Mamerhi O. Okor, M. Renee Chambers, Patrick R. Pritchard, Daniel K. Harmon, and Jake Godzik - the section assesses over 7,900 patients per year and performs an average of 1,400 operative procedures per year. Those patients who are not treated surgically are often successfully managed with other non-surgical therapies. These specialists treat spinal cord and spinal column pathology from the craniocervical junction (the very base of the skull and top of the spine) through the pelvis. This includes neurological conditions from the brainstem, basilar invagination and Chiari malformations, acute traumatic spinal cord injuries through distal spinal cord tethering, including tumors and syrinx, and spinal column pathology from congenital disorders, traumatic fractures, degenerative diseases to spinal deformity and spinal column instabilities.

Many disorders treated require multispecialty cooperation with colleagues from otolaryngology, plastic surgery, vascular surgery, neuroanesthesia, and postoperative critical care. Each of our spinal neurosurgeons performs the gamut of spinal procedures, but each has clinical and research-reinforced specialized areas of expertise:
  • Hadley: Craniocervical junction pathology, cervical and thoracic spinal cord pathology, spinal instability, degenerative spinal disease;
  • Okor: Minimally invasive approaches to the spine, cranio-cervical through lumbosacral spinal column deformity correction, metastatic spinal tumors, and crani-cervical through lumbo-sacral spinal deformities;
  • Chambers: Vertebral body compression fractures, spinal tumors;
  • Pritchard: Metastatic tumors to the spine, spinal column trauma, spinal cord stimulation for pain;
  • Harmon: Minimally invasive approaches to the spine, radiosurgery for spinal tumors, tethered spinal cord (dysraphism) in adults, spinal deformitiy; and
  • Godzik: Minimally invasive approaches to the spine, spinal column deformity correction, robotic spinal surgery.

Our surgeons utilize the latest in technology to accomplish patient assessment and surgical treatment including MR, CT, and vascular imaging, intraoperative navigation, intraoperative fluoroscopy, and O-arm imaging, intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring, microscopic augmentation, and mean arterial blood pressure (MAP) management principles to optimize patient outcomes. Patients with spinal cord tumors and spinal column metastatic disease are often managed with surgical resection +/- spinal reconstruction and adjuvant therapies directed by our multispecialty Tumor Board that is linked to ten other nationally ranked Cancer Centers for the most up-to-date contemporary treatment strategies.

UAB Spinal Service neurosurgeons participate in the National ASR patient outcomes database for lumbar laminectomy, lumbar discectomy, and lumbar spinal fusion procedures. In the recently concluded Neurosurgical QOD patient registry, (members since 2012), UAB Spinal Service neurosurgical patients, (over 600 procedures with 12-month follow-up), do better than the multi-institutional national normative values (52,000 patients) with greater improvement in pre-operative back and leg pain, less post-op back pain, less post-op leg pain, improved post-op ODI scores, better post-op EQ-5D scores, higher post-operative patient satisfaction scores and higher post-operative return to normal activity and return to work percentages. For these reasons and others, UAB Spinal Neurosurgery has been designated as a Top 100 Spinal Surgery Center in the United States. Our spinal surgeons treat patients with a wide variety of spinal conditions and study their results for continued refinement and improvement.

In addition to their commitment to personalized compassionate top-flight patient care, UAB Spinal Service neurosurgeons teach and train medical students and neurosurgical residents in the art and science of spinal cord and spinal column anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, and in the treatment of the pathology that effects them. UAB Neurosurgery is one of the top-ranked neurosurgery residency training programs in the United States, with a complement of 21 residents training for a 7-year duration.

Our spinal surgeons study and investigate neurosurgical disorders of the spinal cord and spinal column. Two of our neurosurgeons have earned federal grant support for their research (Chambers NIH x 3, Hadley: DOD x 2), multi-institutional CCTS grant support (Drs. Chambers, Godzik), and Drs. Chambers, Pritchard, and Okor have foundation and industrial support for focused research initiatives. Collectively, UAB Spinal Service neurosurgeons have published over 300 scientific articles in refereed journals reporting their results. UAB Spinal Service neurosurgery is known for the creation of three internationally recognized medical evidence-based guidelines in spinal surgery, ratified and officially certified by international neurosurgical member organizations like the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS): 

  • Guidelines for the Performance of Fusion Procedures for Degenerative Disease of the Lumbar Spine. (J Neurosurg; Spine, June, 2005)
  • Guidelines for the Use of Electrophysiologic Monitoring for Surgery of the Human Spinal Column and Spinal Cord. (NEUROSURGERY, Nov. 2017)
  • Guidelines for the Management of Acute Cervical Spine and Spinal Cord Injuries. (NEUROSURGERY 2003 and March 2013)

The 22-chapter guidelines effort published in 2013 was awarded Congressional Meritorious Recognition by the House of Representatives of the United States Congress for outstanding contributions to the care and management of patients with spinal cord injuries.

In summary, the UAB Section of Spinal Neurosurgery is committed to compassionate, personalized patient care, quality and outcomes, cost containment, minimization of complications and readmissions, shorter length of hospital stay after surgery, high rates of recovery, and return to activities and work. Our specialists are focused on the art and science of our specialty and train new neurosurgeons both in basic principles and in the latest, most effective technologies and treatments. They study, research, and publish to contribute new knowledge to the world. UAB Spinal Service neurosurgeons have a long history of committed work, assisting patients with both less complex and incredibly complex pathology and offer not just their solutions, but multispecialty care as indicated. They are optimistic and hopeful, treat all aspects of neurosurgical disease of the spinal cord and spinal column, and are expanding to accommodate an increasing patient population in need.

Mark N. Hadley, MD, FACS
Charles A. and Patsy W. Collat Endowed Professor of Neurosurgery