By: 4 April 2023
Surgeon in focus with Todd Peters

Todd Peters is a fellowship-trained orthopaedic spine surgeon recognised nationally for his leadership and innovation in minimally invasive surgical (MIS) techniques and regenerative biologics.

Drawing from more than two decades of experience in top-to-bottom spine, he takes a highly personalised approach to patient care wrapped in a fierce commitment to minimalism. Highly skilled in the most advanced MIS approaches, he is able to use smaller incisions involving a smaller environment, which reduces tissue and muscle damage. His patients, as a result, experience shorter recovery time and better long-term outcomes, all with less pain and a quicker return to their active lives. He recently joined DISC Surgery Center at Newport Beach as physician partner. 


OPN: As a specialist in spinal surgery, could you tell us more about your experience and training background in this field? 

TP: I grew up on the East Coast, where I attended college and medical school in the Philadelphia area. During my orthopaedic surgery residency, I decided to proceed with a specialty in spine surgery. I attended Hahnemann University School of Medicine, Allegheny University’s Orthopedic Surgery Programme and finally the University of Maryland in Baltimore, where I did my spine surgery fellowship. 

I practiced briefly in Allentown, Pennsylvania before moving to Vail, Colorado, where I practiced for 11 years. After Vail, I moved my practice to California (initially in the Inland Empire area), and then to Orange County, where I have been for the last nine years. 


OPN: What drove you to choose your career in surgery – and spinal surgery in particular? 

TP: Throughout my orthopaedic residency, I initially thought because of my athletic background, that I would choose orthopaedic sports medicine. However, during my training, I was exposed to excellent spine surgeons. With this exposure to spine surgery, I developed an interest in and a liking of spinal surgery. I felt that it was a more intricate and delicate surgery that involved more complex issues than sports medicine, and this was of interest to me.  


OPN: It is clear that the healthcare industry has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, what has been the greatest impact for you within your research and the industry as a whole? How has your working practice changed over the past three years? 

TP: From a research standpoint, COVID-19 has slowed down much of the research process, especially in areas such as stem cell research. Initially, it also slowed down the amount of meetings and conferences that could be attended to further the research process. My practice overall during Covid was significantly slowed (as were most practices) due to the inability for patients to actually visit physicians and the reluctance of many patients to go forward with procedures during that period. 

Since the decrease in COVID-related issues, there has still been a generalized reduction in patients seeking procedures, which has therefore caused some decrease in the practice as a whole.  


OPN: What’s the best part of your job? 

TP: The best part of my job is getting the satisfaction of doing a surgery that I know went very well and having the patients see a significant improvement in their pain and be happy with their results. 


OPN: … and the worst? 

TP: The worst part of my job is the ever-increasing administrative paperwork, as well as the increasing difficulties in dealing with the insurance companies and their reluctance to proceed forward with certain surgeries and treatments. 


OPN: What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

TP:  The highlight of my career has been during my involvement with the early advancement of minimally invasive spine surgeries, beginning in the early 2000s and continuing for the last 20 years. 


OPN: Are you currently involved in any further research? If so, could you tell us more about it and what it could mean for the patient experience, management strategies and surgical outcomes looking forward? 

TP: Presently, I am still involved in some research involving the utilization of stem cell products in a minimally invasive spine setting. This has had some delays due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. However, in the long term, it should hopefully prove to be very beneficial in minimizing the actual need for surgeries and treatments for spine patients.  


OPN: Are you planning to attend or will be involved with any medical conferences this year? 

TP: Every year, I attend a conference on the advancement of minimally invasive surgery from an organization called SMISS, as well as the North American Spine Society (NASS) Annual Meeting. Although not specifically this year, I have been involved many times in the past in the teaching capacity for these conferences for minimal invasive spine surgery. 


OPN: If you didn’t work in orthopaedic spinal surgery, what would you be? 

TP: I have always been fascinated by the financial markets and probably would have moved towards involvement in the stock market in some capacity.  Otherwise, maybe I would be a chef for a small restaurant in rural Europe. 


OPN: What would you tell your 21-year-old self? 

TP:  I would tell my 21-year-old self to take a vacation before you enter into your medical career.  


OPN: If you were Health Minister for the day what changes would you implement? 

TP: If I were a health minister, I would re-look at how the healthcare insurance industry self- controls their review process, and streamline the way that the government should be able to overview their decisions. 

For example, major complaints from healthcare providers to the state about an insurance company must presently go through the insurance company first before they can be made to the state. This causes barriers to adequately have the insurance industry overseen and regulated.  


OPN: Away from the clinic and your research – what do you do to relax? 

TP: I relax mostly by watching food shows and researching and trying new recipes.  


OPN: How do you think the future looks in the field of spinal surgery and what are your predictions for 2023 and the next decade? 

TP: The future of spinal surgery should continue to progress with the most minimally invasive treatments to obtain the same outcomes. This – I believe, after still some further process – will involve stem-cell treatments, which may potentially reduce the amount of future surgeries.