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  • photo of phoenix neurosurgeon robert spetzler

    Robert F. Spetzler, MD

    Emeritus Chair, Neurosurgery (480) 861-1392

    Robert Spetzler, MD, is a world-renowned neurosurgeon who specializes in cerebrovascular disease and skull base tumors. He has been involved in pioneering the technique of hypothermia and cardiac arrest for the treatment of difficult brain lesions. He has been honored many times by professional societies, including the American College of Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. In 1994, Dr. Spetzler was chosen to be the Honored Guest of Congress of Neurological Surgeons. At age 49, he was the youngest recipient of this prestigious honor.

    Dr. Spetzler was born in Stierhoefstetten, Germany, and moved to the United States at the age of 11. He received his B.S. from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and his doctorate of medicine from Northwestern Medical School in Chicago. His postgraduate training was completed at Wesley Memorial Hospital–Northwestern in Chicago. He completed a residency in neurosurgery at the University of California – San Francisco. He received board certification in September 1979 from the American Board of Neurological Surgery.

    In 1983 Dr. Spetzler left his position as associate professor of neurosurgery at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland to assume a position as chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Barrow Neurological Institute at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. He served as president and CEO of Barrow from 1986 to 2017. He is also emeritus chair of neurosurgery at the Phoenix campus of The University of Arizona College of Medicine.

    Dr. Spetzler has published more than 300 articles and 180 book chapters in the neuroscience literature. He has co-edited a number of neurosurgical textbooks, including the Color Atlas of Microneurosurgery.

    Dr. Spetzler is no longer seeing patients. Please call (602) 406-3181 to request an appointment with Dr. Michael Lawton.

    Education & Training
    • Residency, UCSF, Neurosurgery, 1972-1977
    • Internship, Northwestern University, Wesley Memorial Hospital, 1971-1972
    • MD, Northwestern University School of Medicine, 1971
    • BS, Knox College, 1967
    • Illinois Valley Community College, 1963-1964
    Professional Memberships
    • American Academy of Neurological Surgery
    • American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS)
    • AANS/CNS Cerebrovascular Section
    • American College of Surgeons
    • Arizona Medical Association
    • Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS)
    • German Society of Neurological Surgery
    • North American Skull Base Society (NASBS)
    • Society of Neurological Surgeons
    • World Academy of Neurological Surgery (WANS)
    • World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS)
    Honors and Awards
    • Recipient, Founder’s Laurel, CNS, 2010
    • William B. Scoville Award, WFNS, 2009
    • Health Care Leadership Award, Arizona Business Magazine, 2009
    • Honored Guest, 4th International Skull Base Congress, 2004
    • Honored Guest, American Academy of Achievement Class of 2000, AZ Golden Plate Award, 2000
    • Outstanding Alumni, American Association of Community Colleges, 1997
    • Honored Guest, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, 1994
    • Honorary Degree, Doctor of Science, Knox College, 1994
    • First Prize, American College of Surgeons, Resident Essay Contest, 1983
    • First Prize, American College of Surgeons, Resident Essay Contest, 1982
    • First Prize, American College of Surgeons, Resident Essay Contest, 1981
    • First Prize, Research, Seventh International CNS, Therapeutic Barbiturate Induced Coma for Focal Cerebral Ischemia: Relation of Response to Timing of Therapy and Duration of Occlusion, 1981
    • Annual Resident Award, 27th Annual Meeting, Congress of Neurological Surgery, 1977
    • Honors in Biology, Knox College, cum laude, 1967
    • Scholarship to Free University of Berlin, 1965-1966
    Selected Publications
    1. Safavi-Abbasi S, Bambakidis NC, Zabramski JM, Workman R, Verma K, Senoglu M, Porter RW, Spetzler RF. Nonvestibular schwannomas: an evaluation of functional outcome after radiosurgical and microsurgical management. Acta Neurochir (Wien). Jan 2010;152(1):35-46.
    2. Killory BD, Chang SW, Wait SD, Spetzler RF. Use of flexible hollow-core CO2 laser in microsurgical resection of CNS lesions: early surgical experience. Neurosurgery. Jun 2010;66(6):1187-1192.
    3. Little AS, Jittapiromsak P, Crawford NR, Deshmukh P, Preul MC, Spetzler RF, Bambakidis NC. Quantitative analysis of exposure of staged orbitozygomatic and retrosigmoid craniotomies for lesions of the clivus with supratentorial extension. Neurosurgery. May 2008;62(5 Suppl 2):ONS318-323; discussion ONS323-314.
    4. Bambakidis NC, Kakarla UK, Kim LJ, Nakaji P, Porter RW, Daspit CP, Spetzler RF. Evolution of surgical approaches in the treatment of petroclival meningiomas: a retrospective review. Neurosurgery. Jun 2008;62(6 Suppl 3):1182-1191.
    5. Bambakidis NC, Kakarla UK, Kim LJ, Nakaji P, Porter RW, Daspit CP, Spetzler RF. Evolution of surgical approaches in the treatment of petroclival meningiomas: a retrospective review. Neurosurgery. Nov 2007;61(5 Suppl 2):202-209; discussion 209-211.
    6. Deshmukh VR, Figueiredo EG, Deshmukh P, Crawford NR, Preul MC, Spetzler RF. Quantification and comparison of telovelar and transvermian approaches to the fourth ventricle. Neurosurgery. Apr 2006;58(4 Suppl 2):ONS-202-206; discussion ONS-206-207.
    7. Deshmukh VR, Smith KA, Rekate HL, Coons S, Spetzler RF. Diagnosis and management of pineocytomas. Neurosurgery. Aug 2004;55(2):349-355; discussion 355-347.
    8. Gonzalez LF, Crawford NR, Horgan MA, Deshmukh P, Zabramski JM, Spetzler RF. Working area and angle of attack in three cranial base approaches: pterional, orbitozygomatic, and maxillary extension of the orbitozygomatic approach. Neurosurgery. Mar 2002;50(3):550-555; discussion 555-557.
    9. Vishteh AG, David CA, Marciano FF, Coscarella E, Spetzler RF. Extreme lateral supracerebellar infratentorial approach to the posterolateral mesencephalon: technique and clinical experience. Neurosurgery. Feb 2000;46(2):384-388; discussion 388-389.
    10. Detwiler PW, Henn JS, Porter RW, Lawton MT, White WL, Spetzler RF. Medulloblastoma presenting with tentorial “dural-tail” sign: is the “dural-tail” sign specific for meningioma? Skull Base Surg. 1998;8(4):233-236.

    View complete list of publications on PubMed

    About Barrow Neurological Institute
    Since our doors opened as a regional specialty center in 1962, we have grown into one of the premier destinations in the world for neurology and neurosurgery. Our experienced, highly skilled, and comprehensive team of neurological specialists can provide you with a complete spectrum of care–from diagnosis through outpatient neurorehabilitation–under one roof. Barrow Neurological Institute: Discover. Educate. Heal.