Meet the Seattle Top Doctor Performing Spinal Surgery with Shorter Hospital Stays and Quicker Recoveries

Northwest Neurosurgery spinal surgeon Stephen Houston is taking the delicate art of spinal surgery to the next level

By Erika Almanza Brown March 29, 2018


This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the April 2018 issue, as part of the Top Doctors cover story. Click here to subscribe.

Why did you choose this specialty?  
Early in my training I realized that I enjoyed, and was good at, very delicate surgery. Neurosurgery is comprised of some, if not the most, delicate surgeries performed.

What are your areas of special interest? 
I have subspecialized in spinal surgery. The anatomy is complex, as are the operations. My patients are interested in improving their quality of life. 

Is there a recent development in your field that you’re especially excited about?
A relatively recent development is the artificial disc. Many conditions that previously required a fusion can now be treated with this option.

What’s the biggest misconception that patients have about what you do?
Patient misconceptions can include the length of surgery, the need for a hospital stay and the recovery period. Many operations take less than an hour, are outpatient procedures, and patients can return to most activities within a few days. 

What can we do to prevent back problems, and what are some solutions for people who have back pain?
Back pain is complex, but one piece of simple advice is to stay active or keep moving. Many patients that experience pinched nerve pain end up considering minimally invasive spinal surgery. When conservative care supervised by a primary care provider fails, a referral to me is appropriate.

What’s the most important thing that patients should pay attention to when choosing a doctor? 
Assuming the doctors you visit are well trained, board certified and reputable, the next step is to choose a doctor that communicates well with you. Make sure you get a chance to ask all of your questions, and have them answered.


Join The Must List

Seattle's best events delivered to your inbox

Follow Us

Top Doctors 2022

Top Doctors 2022

Seattle magazine’s 22nd annual list of the best physicians in the Puget Sound region

Many people have no idea how to find a doctor. They often rely on recommendations from friends or colleagues, or whomever their health system suggests. Personal referrals matter, but, in partnership with Castle Connolly, we’ve created a comprehensive guide of notable doctors throughout the Puget Sound area. For more than two decades, Seattle magazine has…

Top Doctors 2021: A Human Touch

Top Doctors 2021: A Human Touch

Dr. Eric Chen realized he enjoyed working with patients after an initial interest in research

Name: Eric Chen, M.D., PhD. Practice and Hospital Affiliation: Hematology and medical oncology, Kaiser Permanente Bellevue Medical Center and Overlake Hospital Why did you pick your specialty? Research is what initially drew me into the field. Although I enjoyed research in the laboratory, had wonderful research mentors and considered it as a career, working directly with…

Top Doctors 2021: A Life-Changing Experience

Top Doctors 2021: A Life-Changing Experience

Her father’s heart attack persuaded Dr. Sara Weiss to become a cardiologist

Name: Sara Weiss, M.D.  Practice and Hospital Affiliation: Cardiology, Virginia Mason Medical Center Why did you pick your specialty? When I was in college, my father had a heart attack but didn’t recognize the symptoms. He did not seek medical attention until a significant amount of heart damage had occurred. Thankfully, with the help of…

Top Doctors 2021: A Reassuring Voice

Top Doctors 2021: A Reassuring Voice

Colon and rectal surgery is ‘interesting and rewarding’

Name: Ulrik Wallin, M.D., Ph.D. Practice and Hospital Affiliation: Colon and rectal surgery, The Polyclinic Colon & Rectal Surgery (located at The Polyclinic Broadway), affiliated with Swedish First Hill. Why did you pick your specialty? I feel fortunate to be a colorectal surgeon because of the variety of ways I can help people. Many patients who see…