Robert W. Williams: Forgotten pioneer of spinal microsurgery

James L. Stone, Paul M Arnold, Shakeel A. Chowdhry, Fady Charbel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In the 1970's many neurosurgeons gradually adapted microsurgical techniques to spine surgery as the benefits of magnification, illumination, and use of fine instruments in cranial surgery became apparent. In the early 1970s, Robert W. Williams, neurosurgeon in private practice in Las Vegas, Nevada, independently began to devise spinal microneurosurgical techniques with the goal of improving surgical outcome in lumbar and cervical surgery. Much of his initial work with microlumbar discectomies and microcervical foraminotomies was presented at annual meetings of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons in the 1970s and 1980s. An outsider to organized academic neurosurgery, D. Williams found his work was received cautiously and with significant skepticism. He found the orthopedic spine surgery community and journals more receptive, thus much of his earlier work was published in the orthopedic literature. This resulted in an orthopedic and neurosurgical following which was unique at that time. Dr. William's interesting career and contribution to spinal microsurgery is outlined, demonstrating the contributions to surgery, both neurological and orthopedic, that can be achieved by a neurosurgeon in private practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1005-E1008
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • historical perspective
  • lumbar discectomy
  • microlumbar discectomy technique
  • microsurgery
  • spine surgery
  • wound retractor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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