Skip to main content

Spine and brain

Our neurosurgery team gets you back on your journey to an active lifestyle.

Michael Rhee, MD, a neurosurgeon, and Tracy Wheeler, MSN, AGACNP-BC, an experienced nurse practitioner in neurosurgery, are bringing their expertise to Liberty Hospital’s Advanced Spine and Brain Center to serve patients across the Kansas City metropolitan area, the Northland and Northwest Missouri.

Originally from southern California, Dr. Rhee earned both his medical and master’s degrees from the University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA. But when it came time to perform his residency in neurosurgery, Dr. Rhee relocated to the Midwest and the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, where he served as chief neurosurgery resident.

His philosophy focuses on conservative treatment options first, including physical therapy and pain management, before surgery is considered.

“My goal is to educate each patient about what their problem is, and to determine if there is a surgery that can help. The long-term relationships I develop with my patients and watching the progress they make, from diagnosis through recovery, is probably the most rewarding part of what I do."

To schedule an appointment, call 816.415.3437.

What to expect during your first visit

  • Detailed review of your symptoms.
  • Thorough physical examination.
  • Comprehensive review of your imaging including MRIs and x-rays.
  • Explanation of treatment options.

It's important to understand that not all patients will require surgery. Many times the treatment process begins with pain management and physical therapy. The Advanced Spine and Brain Center works in partnership with the Liberty Hospital Pain Management Center.

New patient forms:

Assisting Dr. Rhee in the clinic and operating room is Tracy Wheeler, MSN, AGACNP-B. Tracy earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing degree from the University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, and her degree as an adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner from St. Louis University. She is a board-certified nurse practitioner, and is also certified as a surgical first assistant. Her background includes eight
years of critical care and ICU and neurosurgical nursing experience.

"I love the pride employees here have in this hospital, and I look forward to using my skills to help take care of my community.” - Tracy Wheeler

Neurosurgeries new to the Northland

Dr. Rhee and Tracy Wheeler not only bring a team approach to neurosurgery at Liberty Hospital, but they offer surgical procedures previously not available to Northland area residents.

“Patients literally have been traveling hours away to get some of the procedures we can now perform right here." -Tracy Wheeler

Dr. Rhee agreed and added, “The hospital has made a significant investment in the technology we need to perform a wide range of minimally invasive spine and cranial surgeries. There is no need to leave the Northland.”

He performs these new techniques through much smaller incisions using high-powered microscopes, state-of-the-art intraoperative imaging equipment and stereotactic navigation.This technology helps Dr. Rhee see the patient’s anatomy in real time, guiding him to the problem spot.

“The precision with which we perform these surgeries results in less pain and a much quicker recovery for our patients." -Dr. Rhee

Our neurosurgeons use high-powered microscopes, state-of-the-art intraoperative imaging equipment and stereotactic navigation. This technology helps the surgeon see the patient's anatomy in real time, guiding him to the problem spot.

Conditions treated include:

  • Central nervous system tumors.
  • Brain (intracranial) tumors.
  • Peripheral nerve surgery.
  • Neurotrauma and neurocritical care.

Minimally invasive spine surgery

Minimally invasive spine surgery offers key advantages over open surgery, which requires larger incision, muscle stripping and damage, longer hospital stay and recuperation period.

Advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery:

  • Patients go home hours after surgery for some procedures.
  • Decreases hospital stay.
  • Reduced amounts of pain.
  • Smaller scar.
  • Decreased blood loss.
  • Reduced infection rates.

What symptoms possibly can be treated with surgery?

  • Neck pain with arm pain.
  • Back pain with leg pain.
  • Weakness.
  • Numbness or tingling in your extremities.
  • Walking problems.

Minimally invasive surgical procedures

Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF)

Unlike other lateral approaches to the spine that go through the muscles, the OLIF surgery avoids the muscle entirely preventing significant leg weakness after surgery. Michael Rhee, MD, is among an elite group of physicians using the OLIF approach to spine surgery.

OLIF is recommended to treat nerve pinching caused by severe loss of disc height due to degeneration and spine instability, among other conditions.

  • It is a minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery that replace traditional open spinal surgery.
  • Treats spine instability, restores degenerated disc height, relieving nerve pinching.
  • Decreased pain levels when compared to traditional surgical techniques.
  • Decreased hospital length of stay, often one night stay.

With traditional spine surgery, the physician cuts through muscle mass to reach the spine. But with OLIF, Dr. Rhee makes a small incision in the patient's side.

  • Many patients are up and walking the same day, often returning home the next, versus a three-to-five-day hospital stay.
  • Patients experience fewer complications, including less scarring and blood loss.

Watch this video of Dr. Rhee explaining OLIF.

Dr. Rhee's professional interests include:

  • Minimally invasive spine surgery.
  • Traumatic/complex spine surgery.
  • Oblique lumbar interbody fusion (OLIF).
  • Cervical disc arthroplasty.
  • Central nervous system tumors.
  • Brain (intracranial) tumors.
  • Peripheral nerve surgery.
  • Neurotrauma and neurocritical care.

To schedule an appointment, call 816.415.3437.

Advanced Spine and Brain Center
Doctors Building, Suite 310
2521 Glenn Hendren Drive
Liberty, MO 64068
Map and driving directions

Monday through Friday,
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.