Disc replacement: Nicholas Wills, M.D.
Summit Orthopedics spine surgeon Nicholas Wills, MD shares whether a damaged disc can be replaced. Dr. Wills is a fellowship-trained minimally invasive spine (neck and back) surgeon, specializing in cervical, thoracic, lumbar spine conditions in Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area in Minnesota.
Dr. Nicholas Wills’ Approach to Care
“I understand the concern of athletes to get back to their sport and working in combination with our therapists helps them there.”
Getting started: When to Seek Treatment for Neck or Back Pain [Video]
Introducing Dr. Nicholas Wills
Every morning, Dr. Nicholas Wills arrives at clinic early with his breakfast in one hand. “I raid the fridge for fruit, add frozen kale and protein powder, and blend it into a smoothie,” he grins. “That’s what I eat for breakfast. It’s delicious, it’s packed with balanced nutrients, and it’s a great way to start the day.”
Dr. Wills’ commitment to a healthy breakfast mirrors his comprehensive commitment to patient care. His surgical expertise has won him repeated recognition on the Mpls./St.Paul Magazine’s Rising Stars Doctors list. When he is evaluating a patient, he focuses his knowledge into a streamlined treatment philosophy designed to deliver the best patient outcome.
Tailored solutions for the best interest of patients
“We have so many different ways to fix spine problems,” he says. “There are fusion surgeries, discectomy surgeries, or laminectomy surgeries—but I think these options have to be incredibly tailored to the patient. If you look at an older patient’s MRI, you may see 10 or 20 different spine abnormalities, but that doesn’t mean that the patient needs a large, invasive surgery to address every single issue. My job is to find the one problem that is really causing the pain, and fix that. Often, a relatively small surgery can resolve pain and make the patient remarkably better—with far less morbidity than a large surgery would risk. That’s the principle of minimally invasive surgery; it’s about a smaller incision, but it’s also about a mentality that values the least invasive surgical solution that is best for the patient.”
Discover Summit’s technologically advanced and award-winning spine surgical care
- Learn more: Superior Surgical Safety Recognized by Joint Commission Award
- Understanding technology: How Does An Intraoperative CT Scanner Improve Patient Safety?
Personalized care is Dr. Wills’ priority. “The details of our patient care differentiate Summit in the market,” he explains. “Medical expertise is essential, but we are investing in a quality of care that you won’t find at other practices. For instance, we brought in our own anesthesiologist at our surgery center. He’s using non-narcotic pain techniques and medications that you won’t find elsewhere. This gives my patients a safer and more comfortable experience. It’s an approach that communicates our commitment to care in tangible ways that matter to my patients.”
- See more on why Summit brought anesthesiology in-house
- Check out how pain is managed safely at Summit
Across the nation, Dr. Nicholas Wills trains other surgeons on the best techniques for disc replacement surgery. He was a pioneer in this market, adopting new technology that allows for a two-level disc replacement maintains the motion at both levels of repair.
- Understanding the basics: Degenerative Disc Disease [Video]
- Discover why Summit Orthopedics is a Leader in Total Disc Replacement Surgery
- How it works: Replacing a Damaged Disc [Video]
- Read more: Benefits Of Cervical Disc Replacement
Most satisfying aspect of being a physician
Ask Dr. Nicholas Wills what he likes best about his job, and his answer is immediate. “That’s super easy: improving my patients’ well-being. I treat patients with sciatica—that’s one of the most excruciatingly painful orthopedic conditions you can have. Radiculopathy, or compressed nerve pain, is the worst. Most of the time, I can make this pain better. It’s about more than merely restoring quality of life. Pain doesn’t just affect your life—it ruins your life, and that’s very different. It’s my job to fix that pain. When you know how to do your job well, you can really help people. I love that.”
Nerve conditions – Expert resources from Dr. Nicholas Wills:
- Learn the basics: What Is Radiculopathy?
- Find out: How Do I Know If I Have Lumbar Radiculopathy?
- Learn: What Are The Risk Factors For A Pinched Nerve?
Helping you make educated decisions – Ask Dr. Wills:
- Find out: What Questions Should I Ask My Spine Surgeon?
- Guidance on: Should I Choose A Surgery Center Or Hospital For My Surgery?
Everyday spine insights from Dr. Wills:
University of Notre Dame — South Bend, Indiana
University of Minnesota — Minneapolis, Minnesota
University of Minnesota — Minneapolis, Minnesota
Twin Cities Spine Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota
- National presenter on minimally invasive spine surgery
Waterskiing and golf
Dr. Wills is an amazing doctor – I had almost given up hope for finding what the cause of my leg pain was. Dr. Wills provided easy to understand explanations to my problem and options for correcting the issues. It has been 3 years now since my surgery and the pain is gone completely. Summit was also a great place to visit, the staff are very understanding and helpful. I highly recommend them to my friends and family and would go back in a heart beat if the need were there.
I was 29 years old and had back pain for years. I started having severe sciatic pain that eventually became constant. I was unable to do any of the activities I love and was having to miss work. Dr. Wills did my surgery and when I woke up all the sciatic pain was gone. It was amazing! Dr. Wills even called the morning after surgery to check on me. From start to finish I had nothing but great care from the Summit team. It’s been 10 months since my surgery and I’m pain free. Thanks Dr. Wills and his team for giving me my life back.
Comment from patient satisfaction survey
Dr. Nicholas Wills is a very kind and warm-hearted doctor that definitely cares about his patients and his practice.
I am incredibly grateful for the medical care I received from Dr. Wills at the Vadnais Heights Surgical Center regarding my medical procedure for an inner body fusion. The surgical rooms and care suites contained the state of the art equipment for my surgery and recovery process. The medical team was truly patient-centered through all phases of my care. I have absolutely no reservations in recommending Dr. Wills and the Vadnais Heights Surgical Center for your next surgery. I am now able to return to my normal day to day activities!
I am extremely satisfied with the skill and professionalism of Dr. Wills and will recommend him without hesitation to my friends and colleagues. Thank you!!
Fr. Daniel Moris' story
Starting October 2014, I began experiencing pain down my right leg, severe sciatic nerve pain . By December 2014, pain was so overwhelming I couldn’t walk. After oral steroids, injection under x-ray, and MRI’S, Dr. Wills expertly diagnosed my medical problem: L-4, L-5 needed spurs to be surgically removed. Two weeks after surgery, I began to feel better. Pain had dissipated. By two month check up pain free. By third month, it was if I never had an issue with my sciatic nerve. Dr. Wills, and his assistant, Matt are experts at spinal surgery and recovery. The complete staff and facilities were suburb! I would without hesitation recommend Dr. Wills. Thanks again Dr. Wills, keep up the good work!
From an EXTREMELY active 24 year old: Dr. Wills performed a perfect surgery on me, and my pain is completely gone. Thanks so much to him and his team!!! Being in your twenties and worrying about lifelong back pain is terrifying. The surgery that took place on me was so incredibly minimally invasive that I left the same day, and three months later, I’m able to work out in the gym again with no pain. I couldn’t believe it. I can’t thank him and his team enough, and I really hope that anyone who goes through the pain that I had is able to have such a simple solution as I had. I’m glad I trusted the people at Summit Orthopedics to send me to the best resources available to me.
Articles and Videos from Nicholas Wills, M.D.
I can say, one year out, that it’s been quite the success.
Summit spine specialists explain what research tells us about laser spine surgery safety.
Ask the Expert: Spine Video Series
Ask the Expert: Spine Video Series
Summit’s spine fusion certification is the gold standard in surgical safety.
Summit is the first surgery center in the nation to receive spine fusion certification.