Spine surgery

The spine is a key component of the human body. With highly experienced specialists, the spine surgery team focusses on the conservative and surgical treatment of diseases and injuries of the spinal column.

Our goal is to provide patients with the best possible support. Where the spine is concerned, decisions for surgery have to be considered particularly carefully, taking all relevant factors and the prognosis into account.

Areas of expertise

Whenever an operation is necessary, our highly experienced spine surgeons, led by Prof. Mazda Farshad, employ state-of-the-art surgical techniques. As a university hospital, all the units involved in treatment (surgery, neurology, anesthesia, radiology, nursing care, physiotherapy etc.) specialize in the tertiary care of problems affecting the musculoskeletal system and the spine.

Besides treating degenerative changes in the entire spine, the team operates on conditions in the neck, childhood deformities, and tumors. The team also deals with spines that have been operated on previously. We work together with neurologists at the Spinal Cord Injury Center, who specialize in conditions affecting the spinal cord. This close cooperation, unique to Zurich, allows us to carry out accurate work-ups and, whenever necessary, monitor the spinal cord and nerves during operations.

Treatment and procedures

The Department of Spine Surgery specializes in:

  • Results of wear and tear on the spinal column (degeneration, instability, etc.)
  • Prolapsed vertebral discs, in the lumbar region but also in the cervical and thoracic spine
  • Narrowing of the spinal canal
  • Complex deformities of the spine in children and adults
  • Tumors and inflammation of the spine
  • Injuries to the spine
  • Revision surgery after previous operations on the spine


Quality control, innovation, a scientific approach, continuously developing the latest findings and employing cutting-edge technology are standard in this hospital. As a university department of spine surgery, we take our responsibilities for evidence-based medicine in the investigation and treatment of our patients very seriously and, as a tertiary care hospital, we perform extremely complex procedures on the spine.

The go-to place for back problems

Animated spine videos

A prolapsed (herniated) disc in the lumbar spine is the most common cause of back problems. Strain on the vertebral disc causes tears in the outer ring of cartilage, through which the gel-like inner contents of the disc can protrude, compress a nerve, and lead to inflammation. The resultant pain in the legs may be very severe and there may be associated disorders of sensation and paralysis.

Almost as soon as it has finished growing, the lumbar spine is affected by aging and signs of wear and tear, such as a reduction in the disc spaces and osteoarthritis. These changes may lead to lower back pain or pain in the legs. An operation to stabilize the spine is recommended if the pain cannot be relieved by a decompression procedure.

Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) means that the spine curves sideways and is usually rotated around its longitudinal axis. This causes an asymmetry of the upper body with one shoulder higher than the other and a rib or lumbar hump. The risk of progression is linked to the size of the curve. In the long term, it will cause a functional disorder of the lungs and pain.

Spine fellowship programs at the Balgrist University Hospital

The spine is one of the most vital parts of the human body and deserves highly specialized care. Our experienced surgical team treats all types of disorders affecting the spine. This includes, beside treatment of common adult and pediatric spinal disorders, also treatment of complicated deformities and scoliosis, injuries to the spine, complex degenerative and arthritic conditions, infections, tumors and failed surgical treatments / revisions. The spine and scoliosis team of the Balgrist University Hospital has one main aim: to provide world-class treatment to the patient.

Clinical Spine Fellowship (1 year program)
The one-year clinical spine fellowship is offering the educational opportunity to gain a broad range of experience in standard techniques in spine surgery, and conservative and surgical treatment of all pathologies of the spine including degenerative, congenital, developmental, neoplastic, traumatic and inflammatory diseases in the cervical, thoracic and lumbosacral spine. This one-year program includes both education in surgical techniques and clinical skills. Weekly academic teaching sessions (Spine Rounds) will ensure continuous development of decision-making skills in spinal disorders. Dedicated research time with access to the broad research facilities of our institution will allow active participation in advancement oft spinal science. The fellow will receive the Balgrist 1-year Spine fellowship diploma upon successful completion of the fellowship and after passing the final exam including both, assessment of theoretical and surgical skills. Upon completion, the fellow will be member of the Balgrist spine Alumni group. The clinical spine fellow is a paid employee of our hospital and the salary will be in accordance to the fellows experience.

Clinical Spine Fellowship (two-year program)

Candidates who pass the one-year spine fellowship with outstanding results, will be considered potentially eligible for application for a second year of fellowship, which focuses on education of treatment of more complex spinal disorders. A one-on-one mentorship will advance technical skills and enforce the intellectual aspect of decision-making before, during and after surgery or in conservative treatment of the patients. It is expected throughout to analyze the area’s literature and synthesize learning into practice, conceptualize difficult problems, assess care options and act with more independence. 

Board certification in orthopaedic- or neurosurgery (Swiss FMH or foreign equivalent). (Senior residents in training program shortly before board certification may also be considered)

Knowledge of the German language is necessary.

Visiting Observership (3 months)
This is a 3-month observational fellowship with exposure to clinical and operational activities of the spine team without direct patient contact. The fellow will be observing complex adult and pediatric spinal surgery of all pathologies, will also take part in daily radiological reviews, clinical rounds and out-patient clinics. The observer is encouraged to take part in research projects of the spine team. The visiting spine fellow is not a paid employee of our hospital and must have own financial support for the costs of travel and stay in Zürich.


All Applications must be directed to the secretarial office of Prof. Mazda Farshad, MPH, Chief of Spine Surgery. Applications must include an application letter, CV and letters of recommendations. If the candidate is considered potentially eligible, he/she will be invited for an interview.