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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 (3)

    My reviews


    Overall Experience
    375 Ratings
    About our process
    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.
    Feb 01, 2022
    This was an exit appointment; 1 yr post-op
    Jan 28, 2022
    Dr Ames is an exceptional surgeon and I'm so glad he did my surgery!
    Jan 20, 2022
    I've only had one preliminary tele-visit with Dr Ames when he covered basic details of the procedure recovery etc. I have not received any further information on when this procedure might take place from him or his staff though I have emailed two of his assistants to follow up.
    Jan 15, 2022
    We left with a clear idea of the future pathway and timeline and who to contact if we had questions. We were very pleased
    Jan 14, 2022
    Helpful and informative
    Jan 11, 2022
    I could always use more information! But my procedure is 6-9 months in the future so there will be more time.
    Oct 11, 2021
    Extremely impressed with Dr. Ames and staff
    Sep 28, 2021
    Very comprehensive review of my history and future care options. Review of what to expect and when to call for followup and decision about future care
    Sep 18, 2021
    Sep 18, 2021
    So much info Needed to digest and fu questions
    Sep 14, 2021
    Supposed to call me after reviewing cervical surgery. Said with in 3 days.
    Sep 14, 2021
    Discussed need for orthotics. Agreement. Left clinic expecting receiving orthotics. Days later should have script. No script no orthotic. No Instructions on what to do. Can't reach by phone.
    Aug 25, 2021
    After meeting Dr. Ames I now have a great deal of respect for him and really feel I am in good hands!! I was so impressed with how much attention he paid to me about my present health condition. I wish all Doctors had his disposition!!!
    Aug 21, 2021
    Still waiting for surgery approval and surgery date.
    Aug 20, 2021
    I felt like Dr. Ames listened to my concerns questions and hesitations and addressed them in language that I could understand.
    Jul 29, 2021
    Attention given is late coming - as I said I am 2 years post-op and I have mentioned my concerns before this visit.
    Jun 23, 2021
    Dr Ames and staff are excellent
    Jun 18, 2021
    Dr Ames kindness is amazing! humble man! very kind and brilliant too! I praise God for Dr Ames taking my case and performing my surgery and not giving up on getting the first set of hardware out! you've given me my life back!
    Jun 08, 2021
    Dr Ames was an exceptional provider in terms of giving us the needed information regarding the surgery that is needed along with giving me the final choice of whether to have the surgery or not. He was honest and forthright regarding the procedure and aftercare needs. He calmed my anxiety a great deal. He is the only person I would allow to do surgery on my spine.
    Jun 04, 2021
    Dr. Ames and team are amazing. Professional courteous and responsive.
    May 01, 2021
    The provider ordered a lot of x-rays and lab work to be done prior to making a decision to follow through with surgery.
    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