Dean Chou MD


Professor of Neurological Surgery

Associate Director, UCSF Spine Center

Dr. Dean Chou specializes in the treatment of complex spinal disorders. He treats such disorders as adult scoliosis, spinal deformities, and spinal tumors. He is an expert in minimally invasive applications to such complex spinal disorders, and he has had multiple peer-reviewed papers published describing these techniques. Moreover, he is an expert in traditional, open surgery for such complex procedures as multi-level fusions with osteotomies for adult scoliosis and adult deformity, en bloc spondylectomy and sacral resections for tumors. His research goal is to try to accomplish the same goals of open surgery with minimally invasive techniques, which hopefully can lead to less morbidity and better outcomes for patients.

After medical school at UCSF, Dr. Chou completed his residency at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and then undertook a fellowship in complex spinal surgery at The Barrow Neurological Institute. He is board certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery and has been elected by his peers for the past 8 consecutive years to “Best Doctors in America.”

Dr. Chou is on the Advisory Board of the journal SPINE, the Editorial Board of the Global Spine Journal, and he also is an Associate Editor for the journal, Neurosurgery. He has served on the Scientific Program Committee for the AANS/CNS Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves, as an abstract reviewer for such society meetings as the North American Spine Society (NASS) and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and as a faculty member for The American Association of Neurological Surgeons, The North American Spine Society, The Lumbar Spine Research Society, and the AANS/CNS Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves. He is a two-time recipient of the Harold Rosegay Teaching Award, and his publications have been featured five times as the cover article of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine.


Download the UCSF Neurospinal Disorders Program brochure (PDF)

Education, Training, and Previous Positions

1991: AB, University of California, Berkeley
1996: MD, University of California, San Francisco
1996-1997: Intern, Department of General Surgery, The Johns Hopkins Hospital
1997-2002: Resident, Department of Neurosurgery, The Johns Hopkins Hospital
2002-2003: Assistant Chief of Service, Department of Neurosurgery, The Johns Hopkins Hospital
2003-2004: Spine Fellow, Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, AZ

Selected Professional Memberships and Appointments

Scoliosis Research Society (SRS)
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
Congress of Neurological Surgeons
AANS/CNS Section on Disorders of Spine and Peripheral Nerves
North American Spine Society (NASS)  

Selected Honors & Awards

1990: UC Berkeley Honor Students Society
1990: American Heart Association Research Fellowship
1993: American Federation for Clinical Research Award for Excellence in Research
1994: Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Training Fellowship
1995: Lucien J. Rubinstein Award for Best Paper in Neuro-Oncology
American Association of Neuropathologists Annual Meeting
2000: AANS Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation (NREF) Grant
2007: Who's Who in American Teachers and Educators
2007: Who's Who in Science and Engineering
2007: Harold Rosegay Neurosurgery Resident Teaching Award
2009-10: Best Doctors in America
2011-12: Best Doctors in America
2013-2014: Best Doctors in America
2015: Harold Rosegay Resident Teaching Award
2015-2016: Best Doctors in America

Selected Recent Publications

Lau D, Chou D, Mummaneni PV. Two-level corpectomy versus three-level discectomy for cervical spondylotic myelopathy: a comparison of perioperative, radiographic, and clinical outcomes. J Neurosurg Spine. 2015 Jun 19:1-10. [Epub ahead of print].

Lau D, Chou D. Posterior thoracic corpectomy with cage reconstruction for metastatic spinal tumors: comparing the mini-open approach to the open approach. J Neurosurg Spine. 2015 May 1:1-11. [Epub ahead of print]

Siemionow K, Chou D. To the occiput or not? C1-c2 ligamentous laxity in children with down syndrome. Evid Based Spine Care J 2014;5(2):112-118.

Maa J, Waterford S, Jahan T, Larson DA, Chou D. A novel use of foley catheters to prevent injury to the pelvic viscera during stereotactic radiosurgery for undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma of the sacrum. Perm J 2014 Summer;18(3):e146-e149.

Saigal R, Lu DC, Deng DY, Chou D. Conversion of high sacral to midsacral amputation via S-2 nerve preservation during partial S-2 sacrectomy for chordoma. J Neurosurg Spine 2014;20(4):421-9.

Tran M, Wadhwa R, Ziewacz J, Mummaneni P, Chou D. Comparison between C1-2 fixation with and without supplemental posterior wiring. Evid Based Spine Care J 2014;5(1):12-5.

Chou D, Lau D, Roy E. Feasibility of the mini-open vertebral column resection for severe thoracic kyphosis. J Clin Neurosci 2014;21(5):841-5.

Saigal R, Wadhwa R, Mummaneni PV, Chou D. Minimally invasive extracavitary transpedicular corpectomy for the management of spinal tumors. Neurosurg Clin N Am 2014;25(2):305-15.

Lu D, Tumialan L, Chou D. Multilevel ACDF with and without rh-BMP-2: A Comparison of Dysphagia Rates and Outcomes in 150 patients. J Neurosurg Spine 2013;18(1):43-9.

Chou D, Dekutoski M, Hermseyer J, and Norvell D. The treatment of lumbar adjacent segment pathology after a previous lumbar surgery: a systematic review. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 2012;37(22 Suppl):S180-8.

Chou D, Samartzis D, Bellabarba C, Patel A, Luk KD, Kisser JM, Skelly AC. Degenerative magnetic resonance imaging changes in patients with chronic low back pain: a systematic review. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 2011;36(21 Suppl):S43-53.

Lu D, Chou D, and Mummaneni P. A Comparison of Mini-Open and Open Approaches for Resection of Thoracolumbar Intradural Spinal Tumors. J Neurosurg Spine 2011;14(6):758-64.

Chou D, Lau D, Hermsmeyer J, and Norvell D. Efficacy of interspinous device versus surgical decompression in the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis: a modified network analysis. Evidence-Based Spine-Care Journal 2011;2(1):45-56.

Waldron JS, Oh MC, Chou D. Lumbar subdural hematoma from intracranial subarachnoid hemorrhage presenting with bilateral foot drop: case report. Neurosurgery 2011;68(3):E835-9.

Han SJ, Lau D, Lu DC, Theodore P, Chou D. Anterior thoracolumbar corpectomies: approach morbidity with and without an access surgeon. Neurosurgery 2011;68(5):1220-6.

Clark AJ, Lu DC, Richardson RM, Tihan T, Parsa AT, Chou D, Barbaro NM, Kunwar S, Weinstein PR, Lawton MT, Berger MS, McDermott MW. Surgical technique of temporary arterial occlusion in the operative management of spinal hemangioblastomas. World Neurosurg 2010;74(1):200-5.

Hofstetter CP, Chou D, Newman CB, Aryan HE, Girardi FP, Härtl R. Posterior approach for thoracolumbar corpectomies with expandable cage placement and circumferential arthrodesis: a multicenter case series of 67 patients. J Neurosurg Spine 2011;14(3):388-97.

Chou D, Lu DC. Mini-open transpedicular corpectomies with expandable cage reconstruction. Technical Note. J Neurosurg Spine 2011;14(1):71-7.

Wang VY, Chou D, Chin C. Spine and spinal cord emergencies: vascular and infectious causes. Neuroimaging Clin N Am 2010;20(4):639-50.

Fisher CG, Dipaola CP, Ryken TC, Bilsky MH, Shaffrey CI, Berven SH, Harrop JS, Fehlings MG, Boriani S, Chou D, Schmidt MH, Polly DW, Biagini R, Burch S, Dekutoski MB, Ganju A, Gerszten PC, Gokaslan ZL, Groff MW, Liebsch NJ, Mendel E, Okuno SH, Patel S, Rhines LD, Rose PS, Sciubba DM, Sundaresan N, Tomita K, Varga PP, Vialle LR, Vrionis FD, Yamada Y, Fourney DR. A Novel Classification System for Spinal Instability in Neoplastic Disease: An Evidence-Based Approach and Expert Consensus From the Spine Oncology Study Group. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 2010;35(22):E1221-9.

Lau D, Han SJ, Lee JG, Lu DC, Chou D. Minimally invasive compared to open microdiscectomy for lumbar disc herniation [published online ahead of print September 17, 2010]. J Clin Neurosci.

Acosta FL Jr, Sanai N, Cloyd J, Deviren V, Chou D, Ames CP. Treatment of Enneking Stage 3 Aggressive Vertebral Hemangiomas With Intralesional Spondylectomy: Report of 10 Cases and Review of the Literature [September 14, 2010]. J Spinal Disord Tech.

Lu DC, Lau D, Lee JG, Chou D. The transpedicular approach compared with the anterior approach: an analysis of 80 thoracolumbar corpectomies. J Neurosurg Spine 2010;12(5):583-91.

Wang VY, Chin CT, Lu DC, Smith JS, Chou D. Free-hand thoracic pedicle screws placed by neurosurgery residents: a CT analysis. Eur Spine J 2010;19(5):821-827.

Mummaneni PV, Lu DC, Dhall SS, Mummaneni VP, Chou D. C1 lateral mass fixation: a comparison of constructs. Neurosurgery 2010;66(3 Suppl):153-60.

Polly DW, Chou D, Sembrano JN, Ledonio CG, and Tomita K. An Analysis of Decision Making and Treatment in Thoracolumbar Metastases. Spine 2009;34(22 Suppl):S118-27.

Chou D, Wang VY, Storm PB. Pedicle subtraction osteotomies for the correction of post-traumatic thoracolumbar kyphosis. J Clin Neurosci 2010;17(1):113-117.

Chou D, Eltgroth M, Yang I, Lu D, Manley G. Rib head disarticulation for multilevel transpedicular thoracic corpectomies and expandable cage reconstruction. Neurol India 2009;57(4):469-74.

Cloyd JM, Chou D, Deviren V, Ames CP. En bloc resection of primary tumors of the cervical spine: report of two cases and systematic review of the literature. Spine J 2009;9(11):928-35.

Chou D, Wang VY, Gupta N. Transpedicular corpectomy with posterior expandable cage placement for L1 burst fracture. J Clin Neurosci. 2009;16(8):1069-72.

Chou D, Acosta F, Cloyd JM, Ames CP. Parasagittal osteotomy for en bloc resection of multilevel cervical chordomas. J Neurosurg Spine 2009;10(5):397-403.

Chou D, Wang VY, Khan AS. Primary dural repair during minimally invasive microdiscectomy using standard operating room instruments. Neurosurgery. 2009 May;64(5 Suppl 2):356-8; discussion 358-9.

Hayden MG, Gephart R, Kalanithi P, Chou D. Von Hippel-Lindau disease in pregnancy: A brief review. J Clin Neurosci 2009;16(5):611-3.  

Chou D, Wang V. Two-level en bloc spondylectomy for osteosarcoma at the cervicothoracic junction. J Clin Neurosci 2009;16(5):698-700.  

Wang V, Chou D. Anterior C1-2 osteochondroma presenting with dysphagia and sleep apnea. J Clin Neurosci 2009;16(4):581-2.

Lu DC, Wang V, Chou D. The use of allograft or autograft and expandable titanium cages for the treatment of vertebral osteomyelitis. Neurosurgery 2009;64(1):122-30.

Chou D, Wang VY. Trap-door rib-head osteotomies for posterior placement of expandable cages after transpedicular corpectomy: an alternative to lateral extracavitary and costotransversectomy approaches. J Neurosurg Spine 2009;10(1):40-5.

Sahgal A, Ames C, Chou D, Ma L, Huang K, Xu W, Chin C, Weinberg V, Chuang C, Weinstein P, Larson DA. Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy Is Effective Salvage Therapy for Patients with Prior Radiation of Spinal Metastases. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2008; [published online ahead of print].

Samdani A, Torre-Healy A, Chou D, Cahill AM, Storm PB. Treatment of osteoblastoma at C7: a multidisciplinary approach. A case report and review of the literature. Eur Spine J 2008; [published online ahead of print]. doi: 10.1007/s00586-008-0806-7
Chou D, Lu D, Chi J, Wang V. Rib-head osteotomies for posterior placement of expandable cages in the treatment of metastatic thoracic spine tumors. J Clin Neurosci 2008;15(9):1043-7.
Chou D, Lu DC, Weinstein P, Ames CP. Adjacent-level vertebral body fractures after expandable cage reconstruction. J Neurosurg Spine 2008;8(6):584-8.
Lu DC, Theodore P, Korn WM, Chou D. Esophageal erosion 9 years after anterior cervical plate implantation. Surg Neurol 2008;69(3):310-3.
Chi JH, Acosta FL Jr, Aryan HE, Chou D, Ames CP. Partial spondylectomy: Modification for lateralized malignant spinal column tumors of the cervical or lumbosacral spine. J Clin Neurosci 2008;15(1):43-8.
Acosta FL Jr, Sanai N, Chi JH, Dowd CF, Chin C, Tihan T, Chou D, Weinstein PR, Ames CP. Comprehensive Management of Symptomatic and Aggressive Vertebral Hemangiomas. Neurosurg Clin N Am 2008;19(1):17-29.
Wang VY, Potts M, Chou D. Sarcoma and the Spinal Column. Neurosurg Clin N Am 2008;19(1):71-80.
Sahgal A, Chou D, Ames C, Ma L, Lamborn K, Huang K, Chuang C, Aiken A, Petti P, Weinstein P, Larson D. Image-guided robotic stereotactic body radiotherapy for benign spinal tumors: the university of california san francisco preliminary experience. Technol Cancer Res Treat 2007;6(6):595-604.
Wang VY, Chou D. The Cervicothoracic Junction. Neurosurg Clin N Am 2007;18(2):365-371.
Lu DC, Chou D. Flatback Syndrome. Neurosurg Clin N Am 2007;18(2):289-294.
Acosta FL Jr, Ames CP, Chou D. Operative Management of Adult High-Grade Lumbosacral Spondylolisthesis. Neurosurg Clin N Am 2007;18(2):249-254.
Chou D, Smith JS, Chin CT. Spontaneous regression of a discal cyst. Case report. J Neurosurg Spine 2007;6(1):81-4.
Hartl R, Chamberlain RH, Fifield MS, Chou D, Sonntag VK, Crawford NR. Biomechanical comparison of two new atlantoaxial fixation techniques with C1-2 transarticular screw-graft fixation. J Neurosurg Spine 2006;5(4):336-42.
Josephson SA, Pillai DR, Phillips JJ, Chou D. Neurolisteriosis presenting as cervical myelitis in an immunocompetent patient. Neurology 2006;66(7):1122-3.
Chou D, Hartl R, Sonntag VK. Conus medullaris syndrome without lower-extremity involvement in L-1 burst fractures: report of four cases. J Neurosurg Spine 2006;4(3):265-9.

Chou D, Larios AE, Chamberlain RH, Fifield MS, Hartl R, Dickman CA, Sonntag VK, Crawford NR. A biomechanical comparison of three anterior thoracolumbar implants after corpectomy: are two screws better than one? J Neurosurg Spine 2006;4(3):213-8.