Dr. John Collis, renowned Cleveland spinal neurosurgeon, dead at 89

Alan Condon -   Print  |

Renowned spinal neurosurgeon John Collis Jr., MD, died at his home Nov. 10 at 89 years old, according to The National Herald.

Dr. Collis began his practice in 1963 after completing a residency at Cleveland Clinic and went on to become a pioneer in the spine field.

He treated more than 400,000 patients and performed 17,000 surgeries throughout his career.

"I've done about 16,000 major cases; 5,000 of those have been fusions," Dr. Collis said at a 2017 lifetime achievement award in spine event organized by St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland. "I've never had my first infection in all those fusions."

"I'd say the aspects of spinal surgery that I have perhaps started, certainly contributed to, is geared about safety for the patient," he said.

Dr. Collis attributed his success in avoiding infections to preparation of the patient's body for surgery, the use of antibiotics and effective wound draining.

After a spree of infections forced a hospital to close while he was in the military, he began researching how to combat infections. He told his patients to have a "septosol shampoo and shower" the night before and morning of surgery.

The second initiative Dr. Collis said he began involved the use of antibiotics: "Everyone used antibiotics after you had an infection, but after you had the infection, antibiotics almost can't get to the abscess. You have to open that abscess, drain it, so the antibiotics can get to it."

"I thought why not have those antibiotics in you before you start the surgery?"

Dr. Collis said he initially caught some flak for "excessive use of antibiotics," but he proceeded to administer them before surgery after weighing the risks of excessive antibiotics with the risks of surgical infections.

"Now, I don't think there's any surgeon in this country who does spinal surgery without preoperative antibiotics," he said. "I'm very proud of that."

Dr. Collis specialized in the treatment of the cervical and lumbar spine and helped invent various devices, including instruments for total disc replacement, a laminectomy retractor and a table for discography.

He has served as an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine; director of spine surgery at Cleveland Clinic; and director of neurosurgery at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center and Lutheran Hospital, all in Cleveland.

Dr. Collis continued to see patients at St. Vincent's until six days before he died.

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