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James S. Fister, MD

Board Certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery

Fellow of the American College of Surgeons

Undergraduate Education
University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN): B.S.

Medical School
University of Illinois (Chicago, IL): MD

Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center (Chicago, IL): Orthopedic Surgery Internship/Residency

Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center (Chicago, IL)/Shriners’ Hospital for Children (Chicago, IL): Spinal Surgery Fellowship

Academic Appointments
Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center (Chicago, IL): Instructor in Orthopedic Surgery
Shriners’ Hospital for Children (Chicago, IL): Attending in Orthopedic Surgery


James S. Fister, MD, is a Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon who has been in practice with the Midwest Bone & Joint Institute for over 30 years. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, he attended the University of Illinois College of Medicine and was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society.

His post-graduate medical training included a residency in Orthopedic Surgery at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago where he received the Chicago Trauma Society Award, the Walter P. Blount Award of the Scoliosis Research Society and the Berg-Sloat Traveling Fellowship. He then performed a fellowship in Spinal Surgery sponsored by Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center and Shriners’ Hospital for Children in Chicago. He continues to have an academic appointment as an instructor at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Scope of Practice

General Orthopedics

Dr. Fister’s practice is divided between General Orthopedics and Spinal Surgery. General Orthopedics includes the treatment of congenital and developmental abnormalities, trauma and fractures, tumors and arthritis. In evaluating these conditions, a detailed history and physical exam is performed followed by obtaining and personally reviewing appropriate x-rays, CT scans and MRI films in order to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan. Non-surgical and surgical options are discussed with the patient, the advantages and disadvantages and risks of each option are detailed, then together the patient and Dr. Fister decide on the individualized treatment for that patient. The treatment can vary from rest and reassurance, to medications, to bracing, to physical therapy, to cortisone injections or to surgery. General Orthopedic surgeries commonly performed by Dr. Fister include: Fracture stabilization, knee arthroscopy for cartilage tears, rotator cuff tear reconstruction, endoscopic carpal tunnel syndrome release, and knee replacement.

Spinal Surgery

The management of spinal problems is complex in that it involves both the structural function of the spine as well as the neurologic function. Dr. Fister’s fellowship in Spinal Surgery and his detailed systematic approach allow him to evaluate and manage these complicated conditions.

The most common spinal surgery performed is the treatment of a lower back herniated disc. The disc acts as a shock absorber between adjacent bony blocks of the spinal column. The disc is located close to the nerve sac and nerve roots, but in the normal situation does not press on these neurologic structures. When the disc herniates, part of the disc ruptures out and compresses the nerves, producing pinched nerve symptoms down the leg. These pinched nerve symptoms may include “sciatica” pain or leg numbness or even weakness in the leg. Through a minimal incision in the lower back, the ruptured portion of the disc can be removed, thus decompressing the nerves to relieve the symptoms.

Discs can also rupture in the neck (cervical spine). In this case, the patient usually develops neck pain and pain or numbness or weakness in the arm because the nerves coming out of the cervical spine travel down the arm. This condition is treated through a small incision in the front of the neck, which allows removal of the disc that is herniated, thus decompressing the neurologic structures, followed by fusion of that one level. This surgery is called “anterior cervical discectomy and fusion” and it has a very high success rate in relieving the patient’s symptoms.

Lumbar spondylolisthesis is another common lower back painful condition that can benefit from surgery. In spondylolisthesis, one segment of the spine has slipped forward in relation to the spinal segment below it. The patient often feels lower back pain and nerve pinch symptoms in the legs. The surgical correction of spondylolisthesis involves decompressing the nerves and fusion of that unstable spinal level.

Practice Philosophy

Dr. Fister spends considerable time on the pre-operative evaluation aspect of patient care. This is done to determine whether surgical or non-operative care is the best treatment for that individual patient. The treatment options are presented to the patient in detail, then the patient is asked to take an active role in his/her health care decision.

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