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Christopher P. Ames


Co-director, Spinal Surgery and UCSF Spine Center
Director, Spine Tumor and Spinal Deformity Surgery

Dr. Christopher Ames is a neurosurgeon who specializes in caring for patients with tumors, scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine) and kyphosis (curvature of the upper back). He is recognized by the Chordoma Foundation for his expertise in chordoma (a cancerous tumor that grows along the spine). He also has advanced knowledge of chondrosarcoma (a rare bone cancer that starts in cartilage cells), giant cell tumor (an aggressive, noncancerous tumor), soft tissue sarcoma (cancer affecting connective tissues) and sacral tumors (those affecting the sacrum, a bone at the base of the spine).

Ames directs surgery for spinal tumors and spinal deformities at UCSF. Co-director of the UCSF Spine Center, he co-directs the high-risk spine service and neuro-spinal disorders program. In addition, he directs UCSF's neurosurgical spinal deformity service, which performs more than 200 procedures each year to correct scoliosis, kyphosis, flat back syndrome, and chin-on-chest deformity in ankylosing spondylitis (a form of arthritis affecting the spine).

Ames directs UCSF's spinal biomechanics laboratory. He serves as the UCSF site director for the International Spine Study Group as well as for the multicenter, international Scoli-RISK-1 study sponsored by the AO Foundation in collaboration with the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS), which is looking at neurological complications following spinal deformity surgery. He has published pioneering research on tumor surgery, how to classify spinal deformities, and other concepts that facilitate safer treatment planning for complex spine surgery. He also pioneered the use of artificial intelligence decision support tools for surgery on adults with scoliosis. His research in spinal deformity has won numerous honors, including the SRS Russell A. Hibbs Award 7ndash; the top prize in scoliosis surgery research – three times. He has twice won both the SRS Louis A. Goldstein Award and SRS Thomas E. Whitecloud Award.

Ames earned his medical degree from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He completed a residency in neurosurgery at the University of California, San Diego, where he served as chief resident. He completed a fellowship in complex spine surgery at the Barrow Neurological Institute. He has been at UCSF for 20 years.

Internationally recognized for his work in spinal tumors, spinal deformities, scoliosis and cervical kyphosis, Ames has published articles in more than 600 peer-reviewed publications. He serves as spine section lead editor for the journal Operative Neurosurgery. A globally honored lecturer, he has presented to meetings of the Spine Society of Australia, Argentine Spine Society, Berlin Spine Society, Brazilian Spine Society, Japanese Orthopaedic Association, Japan Neurosurgical Society, Korean Spinal Neurosurgery Society and Asia Pacific Spine Society. He has served as chairman for more than 200 national and international courses that teach surgical techniques for advanced tumors and deformities to neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons around the world. He has been a visiting professor at Hospital for Special Surgery, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, University of California, Los Angeles and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is currently directing SRS' worldwide program of educational courses, developing a design to teach advanced scoliosis surgery throughout Asia, Europe and Latin America.

San Francisco Magazine named Ames to its top doctors list every year from 2015 to 2022, and Castle Connolly named him one of the country's top doctors for both neurosurgery and cancer from 2010 to 2022.

  • Education

    David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 1991

  • Residencies

    UC San Diego, Neurosurgery, 2001

  • Fellowships

    Barrow Neurological Institute, Complex Spine Surgery, 2002

  • Board Certifications

    Neurological Surgery, American Board of Neurological Surgery

  • Academic Title


Where I see patients (2)

    My reviews


    Overall Experience
    414 Ratings
    About our process
    Nov 23, 2023
    All positive thinking by the Dr. That's what I wanted to hear.
    Nov 19, 2023
    Was very heartened by the doctor consultation. So appreciated the research and thus the variance on the surgery recommended for my back issue.
    Oct 31, 2023
    Dr Ames was very good and explained my different options in a manner that I understood. I would recommend Dr Ames to family and friends.
    Oct 30, 2023
    Dr Ames and his staff have always demonstrated caring professionalism and knowledge. I am extremely happy with my results following my surgeries.
    Oct 27, 2023
    I saw several people. All except for Dr. Ames were new to me. I'm not good at getting names written down. I'm hoping MyChart notes might the names. I should make certain I get them down but things go quickly and I don't.
    Oct 12, 2023
    Dr. Ames was very helpful and listened to my needs and concerns. I appreciated his suggestion of further testing.
    Oct 09, 2023
    Dr. Ames is a beyond wonderful doctor & surgeon. I thoroughly trust him with my care. On rge day of my recent doctor was on a tight schedule. Although it seemed like the time with him was short I had the opportunity to speak In detail with his PA. I did not feel slighted or that I had unaddressed Issues or questions.
    Sep 19, 2023
    Dr Ames is so wonderful about explaining things in a way respectful manner.
    Sep 14, 2023
    I am not certain that UCSF really has an interest in my care based on my experiences.
    Aug 15, 2023
    Dr Ames & teck people pa's ect are great.
    Aug 15, 2023
    Excellent doctors and staff! I am so grateful to this team for all they have done for me!
    Aug 11, 2023
    Incredible doctor. Feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have him review my case
    Aug 02, 2023
    Jun 12, 2023
    From the beginning I've been given partially correct and/ or conflicting info regarding recovery and time lines...
    Jun 11, 2023
    Just overall unprofessional and a waste of time The service I received I could have gotten over the phone
    May 28, 2023
    Dr Ames and team gave me back my life! I stand straight after 30 yrs. His patience with my oddities and challenges thru recovery was amazing. Had leg issue he had never seen or knew why but he was there every day for me!!!!!! Thank you Dr Ames!!!
    May 24, 2023
    Very Solid all thevway.
    May 19, 2023
    Dr Ames and his staff are 5 star. Dr Ames has complete changed my life for the better. I would not be walking or able to live my life if it was not for him.
    May 09, 2023
    Always a positive experience with Dr Ames
    May 05, 2023
    The overall meeting went very well. Dr. Ames and his staff were very professional.
    May 03, 2023
    Dr Ames is awesome
    May 02, 2023
    I was absolutely delighted with the care I received! Dr. Ames listened carefully to my history and took time to answer my questions. Prior to my visit he had carefully examined my MRIs and spotted a problem that others had missed. Best of all he gave me hope for amelioration of my symptoms!
    Apr 30, 2023
    Dr Ames is the 5th spine doctor I have seen in the last year and hands down the best! He listened he walked me through the thought process of having the surgery (or not) and he was absolutely excellent. I left there knowing I am making the right decision.
    Apr 27, 2023
    Was there to seek a second opinion. I felt reassured with the plan developed for treatment moving forward.
    Apr 21, 2023
    Very good I look forward to when I come back for surgery
    Mar 28, 2023
    Absolutely extraordinary!!!
    Mar 22, 2023
    Dr. Ames is excellent at listening to me and he told me his concerns I want to be able to make the decision regarding my own body and he lets me do that. He gives me all of the data but ultimately it's my decision to make.
    Feb 28, 2023
    I was hoping that UCSF would look at my condition in a whole new light! Kinda like thinking outside the box! My condition is complicated and I feel like UCSF just blew me off!
    Feb 28, 2023
    I had to wait over a month to have a tele appointment. At my appointment the network was down so he could not give me any information. They said they would call the following day. They did not. I had to reach out to them and they gave me very little information about my X-rays and cat scan. And it cost 400 to have to get this. Very frustrating! I still don't feel like I have enough information about my healing.
    Feb 14, 2023
    Dr Ames bedside manner was excellent! As an RN I know surgeons aren't always so personable or patient friendly. But he was! Also the MA and PA I spoke with were very nice and professional.
    Feb 09, 2023
    Dr. Ames team were amazing from the very first meeting thru surgery & beyond.
    Feb 04, 2023
    Dr. Ames is the consummate professional.
    Jan 31, 2023
    Excellent beginning to end.
    Jan 29, 2023
    Great people and professionals. I am extremely lucky to receive care from these professionals
    Jan 29, 2023
    Outstanding ongoing care and inclusion of me all along the way
    Jan 26, 2023
    Everything has gone very well. I'm still getting more info before any surgery.
    Dec 21, 2022
    Dr Ames was very informative and gave excellent advice
    Dec 20, 2022
    Best overall experience I've ever had!
    Nov 16, 2022
    Dr Ames arrived late left early mostly ignored patient history patient questions and concerns
    Nov 08, 2022
    Dr. Ames was very caring and explained everything in a way I totally understood.
    Nov 05, 2022
    Dr. Ames was very clear about my back deformity and what he thought could be done to improve my posture pain level and general well-being.
    Oct 28, 2022
    Both Dr. Ames and the female doctor we spoke to are excellent!
    Oct 25, 2022
    Doctor and physician assistant are outstanding care providers
    Oct 25, 2022
    Oct 14, 2022
    Dr. Ames did listen to my questions and concerns. He directed his answers to my husband which I found uncomfortable. He is a knowledgeable practitioner and I think would provide good care. I worry about his downplaying the seriousness of the surgery and length of time to heal.
    Oct 12, 2022
    Dr. Ames was very patient and explained things well. Gave me hope!
    Oct 10, 2022
    Dr. Ames was extremely helpful informative and instilled complete confidence in his knowledge and abilities. He was patient with my many questions and concerns. He is an outstanding care provider.
    Oct 07, 2022
    II wanted this 2nd opinion so I could decide who and where to get the surgery.Dr. Ames told me absolutely nothing of what he was going to do or any pertinent information about case during and after the surery.
    Oct 03, 2022
    Overall care---very good; however there's that slight area in her referral that's to be addressed.
    Oct 01, 2022
    I was put at ease by the Doctor even though the procedure I will be going through is a lot. I'm looking forward to moving on with my life.
    Sep 23, 2022
    Very professional program. The NP was very knowledgeable also.
    Sep 09, 2022
    Extremely efficient and timely.
    Sep 06, 2022
    Due to issues regarding previous images we did not see Dr Ames. This rating is for the PA who we did see
    Aug 02, 2022
    Dr. Ames is excellent !!
    Jul 28, 2022
    Excellent experience with Dr. Ames. He addressed all of my concerns. His recommendations for future treatment demonstrated that he had my best interests in mind.
    Jul 27, 2022
    Very little discussion of condition used medical terms rather than plain English didn't discuss risk of options or what involved.
    Jul 25, 2022
    Very professional very good
    Jul 24, 2022
    I wanted to get further questions but didn't really know how to ask in a way to be understood. Afterward I was able to talk it out with my fiance. I've left two messages for the doctor but he hasn't called me back yet.
    Jul 15, 2022
    I am so grateful for Dr Ames' surgical skill and his encouraging and caring professional manner. Dr Ames and his team are outstanding.
    Jul 12, 2022
    Patient answered all my questions explained things in detaile explained xray and put me at ease.
    Jun 09, 2022
    The Dr. while trying to give me the needed time to answer my questions seemed rushed and under pressure to get to his next appt. I'm sure it isn't his fault but the systems for trying to squeeze in as many appt's and get as much billable time as possible.
    Apr 27, 2022
    Very pleased
    Apr 12, 2022
    Total professionals
    Apr 12, 2022
    I feel I am in excellent hands with Dr. Ames!
    Mar 18, 2022
    Dr. Ames listened very carefully to my concerns regarding my foot pain drew a picture and explained to me what he thought was the cause. He then suggested a course of therapy which included an additional injection of Cortisone. He listened quite closely to my questions and answered them all thoughtfully and carefully. He is warm friendly professional compassionate and an amazing surgeon. I am so happy with my care. I would highly recommend him to anyone seeking this type of very difficult and complex surgery.
    Feb 25, 2022
    Feb 25, 2022
    Doctor is waiting for test results before discussing treatment and follow-up care.
    Decorative Caduceus

    Radiographic and Clinical Evaluation of Surgical Treatment for Cervical Deformity: A Multi-Cent...

    Self-reported pain in Head where 0=no pain/10=severe pain


    Decorative Caduceus

    Complex Adult Deformity Surgery (CADS)

    Scoliosis specific patient reported outcome