Dr. Richard Rooney

Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon
Regenerative Medicine Specialist

“A nationally recognized, board certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon”

Repeatedly recognized as a Seattle Superdoctor, and voted a Seattle Met ‘Top Doctor’ by his peers

Richard Rooney, M.D. is a nationally recognized, board certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon specializing in cervical and lumbar spinal fusions, decompressions, and non-operative spine care utilizing regenerative medicine/stem cell therapy. He is dedicated to providing a patient-focused, family-centered approach to medical care, believing that patient education and understanding are paramount to medical decision-making.

Graduating from the United States Military Academy, where he was an All-army athlete, Dr. Rooney obtained his Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering. He then attended medical school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. He completed his Orthopaedic Surgery training in the Army and a Spine Surgery Fellowship at U.C. San Diego/San Diego Center for Spinal Disorders.

After fellowship, he was chosen to create the first ever spine surgery service at Fort Hood at Darnall Army Medical Center. In only a few short years, Dr. Rooney single-handedly built, from the ground up, one of the busiest and most successful spine programs in the Department of Defense. He was subsequently transferred to William Beaumont Army Medical Center where he served as Chief of the Scoliosis and Spine Surgery service until his retirement from the Army and relocation to the Seattle area in 2010.

Dr. Rooney is an innovator in spine surgery. He was among the first surgeons in the Northwest to perform many complex surgical operations with the use of computer-navigated and computer-assisted surgery. And he was the first spine surgeon in Washington to perform and integrate the ScoliScore genetic testing into his practice, allowing adolescent scoliosis patients to avoid x-rays, bracing, and in some cases spine fusion surgery.

He is also an expert and mentor in the field of regenerative medicine and stem cell science. He was the first surgeon in the Northwest to use stem cells routinely to optimize spine surgery outcomes and when possible, avoid surgery altogether. In fact, Congress recognized Dr. Rooney’s contributions in this field by appointing him as a Peer Reviewer for Congressional Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) in 2009 and 2011, where he evaluated and recommended the most promising research projects for Congressional funding.

Dr. Rooney has made profound contributions to the fields of orthopedic and spine surgery, authoring over 40 manuscripts, presentations, and book chapters. He is the only surgeon ever to be awarded all three prestigious Clinical Travelling Fellowships by the Scoliosis Research Society, the North American Spine Society and the Cervical Spine Research Society.

Since establishing his spine practice in the Seattle area in 2010, Dr. Rooney was repeatedly recognized as a Seattle Superdoctor, and voted a Seattle Met ‘Top Doctor’ by his peers.


  • Evaluating and Managing Back pain in Children and Adolescents

    Rooney RC, Devine JG ABSTRACT: Low back pain (LBP) has a variety of presentations in children and adolescents. Anteroposterior and lateral x-ray films of the spine should be obtained for every child who complains of LBP; laboratory evaluation also may be needed. Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis are common causes. If symptoms do not resolve with conservative treatment, orthopedic consultation may be appropriate. The thoracic form of Scheuermann disease has more pronounced kyphosis than the lumbar form. Disk herniation rarely occurs in children. Patients who have unidentifiable pain generators may have psychosomatic complaints. Often, physical examination findings in diskitis and vertebral osteomyelitis are nonspecific. LBP may result from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis may become evident during adolescence. J Musculoskel Med. 2005;22:284-293

  • A Prospective Randomized Evaluation of Arthroscopic Stabilization Versus Nonoperative Treatment in Patients with Acute, Traumatic, First-time Shoulder Dislocations

    Bottoni CR, Wilckens JH, DeBerardino TM, D'Alleyrand JC, Rooney RC, Harpstrite JK, Arciero RA ABSTRACT Background: Nonoperative treatment of traumatic shoulder dislocations leads to a high rate of recurrent dislocations. Hypothesis: Early arthroscopic treatment for shoulder dislocation will result in a lower recurrence rate than nonoperative treatment. Study Design: Prospective, randomized clinical trial. Methods: Two groups of patients were studied to compare nonoperative treatment with arthroscopic Bankart repair for acute, traumatic shoulder dislocations in young athletes. Fourteen nonoperatively treated patients underwent 4 weeks of immobilization followed by a supervised rehabilitation program. Ten operatively treated patients underwent arthroscopic Bankart repair with a bioabsorbable tack followed by the same rehabilitation protocol as the nonoperatively treated patients. The average follow-up was 36 months. Results: Three patients were lost to follow-up. Twelve nonoperatively treated patients remained for follow-up. Nine of these (75%) developed recurrent instability. Six of the nine have required subsequent open Bankart repair for recurrent instability. Of the nine operatively treated patients available for follow-up, only one (11.1%) developed recurrent instability. Conclusions: Arthroscopic stabilization of traumatic, first-time anterior shoulder dislocations is an effective and safe treatment that significantly reduces the recurrence rate of shoulder dislocations in young athletes when compared with conventional, nonoperative treatment.

  • Coxa Saltans Externa Treated with Z-plasty of the Iliotibial Tract in a Military Population

    Kim DH, Baechler MF, Berkowitz MJ, Rooney RC, Judd DB ABSTRACT Coxa saltans, or snapping hip, can be attributable to a number of causes. Coxa saltans externa typically occurs when the thickened portion of the iliotibial band snaps over the greater trochanter as the hip is flexed. This condition generally resolves with a course of nonoperative treatment. We have treated three patients with Z-plasty of the iliotibial band, which has the highest published success rate in the English language literature. Only one of three patients was able to return to full activities postoperatively. In our small series, this method of surgical treatment in an active duty military population yielded less than optimal results. Military Medicine [2002, 167(2):172-173]

    Read more 2002
  • Frontline Surgery: A Practical Approach, Chapter 19: Extremity Injuries and Open Fractures

    CHAPTER 19: EXTREMITY INJURIES AND OPEN FRACTURES Richard C. Rooney ABSTRACT Although you may have visions of operating night and day in the chest and abdomen in a combat setting, the truth is that you will be dealing with extremity injuries much more frequently than anything else. Because of modern combat mechanisms and improved protective equipment and vehicles, the extremities remain the most vulnerable area to injury (Fig. 19.1). You have most likely dealt with some extremity trauma in the civilian setting, but probably have left most of it to the orthopedic surgeons to manage. In combat you will see extremity injuries unlike anything you have seen in the civilian arena, and you will often not have the luxury of an orthopedic surgeon immediately available to handle it. Review the upper and lower extremity anatomy before you deploy to a combat setting – you will definitely need it. Frontline Surgery: A Practical Approach; Matthew J. Martin MD, FACS • Alec C. Beekley MD, FACS

    Read more 2010
  • Frontline Surgery: A Practical Approach, Chapter 25: Spine Injuries

    CHAPTER 25: SPINE INJURIES Matthew J. Martin, Richard C. Rooney ABSTRACT You arrived in the theater of operations several weeks ago, and injured patients from your first mass casualty event are streaming into the ER. With the exception of the uniforms and the fact that your ER is a tent, it looks a lot like a civilian trauma event. Multiple patients arrive bleeding and moaning, almost all of them on spine boards and with cervical collars in place. One patient has multiple fragment wounds to his chest, neck, and face and is having a hard time breathing. He is bleeding around his cervical collar, but no one wants to remove it or move the patient for fear of violating “spinal precautions”. Suddenly, the experienced triage physician arrives and wastes no time in removing the collar, sitting the patient upright, and assessing his neck wounds. Miraculously the patient survives with an intact spinal cord and neurologic function. Frontline Surgery: A Practical Approach; Matthew J. Martin MD, FACS • Alec C. Beekley MD, FACS

    Read more 2010