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Matthew E. Cunningham, MD, PhD

Spine Surgery

About Dr. Cunningham


Dr. Matthew E. Cunningham is an Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Interim Chief of the Scoliosis Service at Hospital for Special Surgery. He has clinical interest in thoracic and lumbar spine care, including spinal deformity (scoliosis, flatback, kyphosis, and spondylolisthesis) for adult and pediatric patients, and degenerative problems (stenosis, herniated discs, arthritis, instability) in adults. In consideration of each and every patient, he focuses on the discovery and refinement of less-invasive, less-painful, and less-disruptive ways to correct spinal pathology. This includes surgical solutions for acute spine problems (herniated discs, pinched nerves, radiculopathy) and chronic/degenerative problems (stenosis, spine arthritis, disc herniations, and spinal deformity).

With young scoliosis patients, Dr. Cunningham is sensitive to the need to maintain a normal child’s life as much as possible and works to minimize treatment and avoid surgery wherever other therapies promise success. With adult patients, he incorporates new, less-invasive techniques for surgery that result in smaller incisions, less pain, less abdominal disturbance, and reduced recovery time. Dr. Cunningham runs a basic science research lab, working on a spinal fusion technique that would eliminate surgery altogether, using an innovative injection instead. He also conducts clinical research and participates in two multi-center study groups to improve outcomes in pediatric (CSSG) and adult (ISSG) spine deformity surgical patients.

Currently, he is a volunteer surgeon for the Foundation for Orthopaedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS), a role which has taken him to countries such as Ghana and Sierra Leone in Africa, and Barbados in the West Indies, to provide surgical and non-surgical care to these underserved peoples.

Dr. Cunningham’s background is studded with academic honors and sports. He studied Biophysics at Johns Hopkins University and was recognized with several academic honors including induction into Phi Beta Kappa and being a Rhodes Scholar regional finalist. Throughout his years at Johns Hopkins, he competed in both varsity wrestling and football and was active on the University’s club rugby team. When not in the classroom or on the athletic field, he worked as a lifeguard captain at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park in Long Branch, NJ.

After graduating from Johns Hopkins, Dr. Cunningham attended Columbia University for both graduate and medical school. While there, he was a student with the National Institute of Health-funded Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) and was recognized with many academic honors including induction into Alpha Omega Alpha and receiving the Alfred E. Steiner Research Award, the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research, and the Miriam Berkman Spotnitz Award. Dr. Cunningham was also recognized for his clinical excellence, winning the Virginia P. Apgar and New York Orthopaedic Hospital Awards.

Throughout his medical studies, Dr. Cunningham remained active in sports; he competed in lifeguard relays with the Borough of Bradley Beach, remained highly involved with Columbia’s "P&S" Rugby Club, and completed two New York City marathons.

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Specialized Centers

HSS Center for Regenerative Medicine

Special Expertise

Adult and pediatric scoliosis, kyphosis, spondylolisthesis, spondylolysis, and other spinal deformities
Complex multiplanar spinal deformity: anterior and/or posterior approaches, osteotomies, and vertebrectomy
Lumbar spine degenerative disease and arthritis: minimally invasive anterior fusion, posterior instrumental fusion
Spondylolisthesis, lumbar spine stenosis and instability: direct an indirect decompression, alignment reduction, sacral transfixation
Surgical solutions for sciatica-type pain and weakness: microdiscectomy, laminectomy, decompression


Adult and pediatric anterior and/or posterior spinal fusions for surgical treatment of scoliosis, kyphosis, and spinal deformity
Thoracoplasty, osteotomy, vertebrectomy, posterior vertebral column resection for complex spinal deformity reconstruction
Anterior and/or posterior surgery for stenosis, herniated discs, degenerative disease, and arthritis, including decompression and/or fusion
Posterior lumbar microdiskectomy for herniated discs; posterior lumbar decompression for stenosis; anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), lateral access lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) posterior or transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF/TLIF), and posterolateral instrumented lumbar fusions for instability and end-stage arthritis of the spine

Patient Stories

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Please call our office if you have questions regarding your insurance coverage. If you have out-of-network benefits, then your insurance may reimburse you for a portion of your office visit. We will work with you and your insurance to minimize your out-of-pocket costs. Financial assistance may be available for patients in need.



Associate Attending Orthopaedic Surgeon, Hospital for Special Surgery
Associate Scientist on the Clinical Scientist Track, Research Division, Hospital for Special Surgery
Associate Attending Orthopaedic Surgeon, New York-Presbyterian Hospital
Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College


Volunteer Surgeon, Foundation for Orthopaedics and Complex Spine
Member, North American Spine Society
Member, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Candidate Fellow, Scoliosis Research Society
Active Member, Orthopaedic Research Society
Complex Spine Study Group, Adolescent Subgroup
International Spine Study Group


Board Certified, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery


North American Spine Society Young Investigator Research Grant Award
Philip D. Wilson Award for Excellence in Orthopaedic Surgery Research, Hospital for Special Surgery
Orthopaedic Fellowship Award, New York Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation
Emerging Leader Program, American Orthopaedic Association
Clinician Scientist Development Program, AAOS/OREF/ORS
New York Orthopedic Hospital Award for Outstanding Research & Clinical Performance, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University


MD, PhD, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, 2000


New York Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, 2000-2001


Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, 2001-2005


Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, 2005-2007

State Licensure



For My Patients

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Directions to The Pavilion

My office is located at The Pavilion, 541 East 71st Street. The main entrance to The Pavilion is on the north side of 71st Street underneath the sky bridge that connects the main hospital to the Belaire Building.

Pavilion map

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HSS Spine at Hospital for Special Surgery

Publications by Dr. Cunningham

Patient Education

Blog Posts

Editorial Appointments

Clinical Orthopaedics & Related Research, reviewer    
Hospital for Special Surgery Journal, reviewer    
Journal of Orthopaedic Research, reviewer   
Arthritis Research & Therapy Journal, reviewer   
Scoliosis, reviewer
Biochemistry, reviewer 

Selected Books/Chapters

Cunningham ME, Kitajewsi J, Greene LA.  Efficient Stable Transfection of Pheochromocytoma (PC12) Cells Using a Recombinant Retrovirus (LNC).  In: Rush RA & Walker JM (eds):  Neurotrophin and Receptor Methods and Protocols: Methods in Molecular Biology.  Clifton, NJ, Humana Press; 2001: 135-147.

Cunningham ME, Frelinghuysen PHB, Roh JS, Boachie-Adjei O, Green, DW.  Fusionless scoliosis surgery. Curr Opin Pediatr 2005;17(1): 48-53.  

Teng KK, Angelastro JM, Cunningham ME, Greene LA.  Cultured PC12 Cells: A Model for Neuronal Function, Differentiation and Survival.  In: Colin JE (ed):  Cell Biology: A Laboratory Handbook, Third Edition.  Orlando, FL, Academic Press; 2006: 171-176.

Cunningham ME, Bomback D, Boachie-Adjei O. Revision Deformity Surgery. In Errico, Lonner, and Moulten (eds.): Surgical Management of Spinal Deformities. Philadelphia, PA, Saunders/Elsevier: 2009: 399-417.

Kim HJ, Cunningham ME, Boachie-Adjei O. Revision Spine Surgery to Manage  Pediatric Deformity.  J Am Acad Ortho Surgery  2010; 18(12): 739-48.

Boachie-Adjei O, and Cunningham ME. Revision Spine Surgery in the Growing Child. In Akbarnia BA, Tazici M, Thompson GH (eds): The Growing spine: Management of Spinal Disorders in Young Children. Berlin, Germany, Springer-Verlag; 2011: 487-97.

Mo F and Cunningham ME. Pediatric Scoliosis. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med 2011; 4(4): 175-82.

Cunningham ME and Boachie-Adjei O. Revision Surgeries for Adult Spinal Deformity.  In Bridwell, K.H. and Dewald R.L. (eds.): The Textbook of Spinal Surgery, 3rd Edition. Philadelphia, PA, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: 2011: 970-981.

Cunningham ME. Adult Spinal Deformity Surgery. Curr Orthop Pract 2012; e-Pub ahead of print: April 10, 2012.

Hirsch BP, Unnanuntana A, Cunningham ME, Lane JM. The Effect of Therapies for Osteoporosis on Spine Fusion: A Systematic Review. Spine Journal  2012  (in press).

Selected Journal Articles

Cunningham ME, Charles G, Boachie-Adjei O. Posterior Vertebral Column Resection for VATER/VACTERL Associated Spinal Deformity: A Case Report.  HSS J 2007; 3(1): 71-76.  

Boachie-Adjei O, Charles G, Cunningham ME. Partially Overlapping Limited Anterior and Posterior Instrumentation for Adult Thoracolumbar and Lumbar Scoliosis: A Description of Novel Spinal Instrumentation, “The Hybrid Technique.”  HSS J 2007; 3(1): 93-98.

Tomin EA, Cunningham, ME, Vergun A, Weiland A., Lane JM.  Molded vascularized neo-ossicle formation in silicone chambers:  novel technique description and histological assessment. Clin Ortho Related Research 2007; 465: 249-56.

O’Loughlin PF, Cunningham ME, Bukata SV, Tomin E, Poynton AR, Doty SB, Sama AA, Lane JM. Parathyroid Hormone (1-34) Augments Spinal Fusion, Fusion Mass Volume and Fusion Mass Quality in a Rabbit Spinal Fusion Model. Spine 2009; 34(2): 121-30.

Bess S, Boachie-Adjei O, Burton D, Cunningham ME, Shaffrey C, Shelakov A, Hostin R, Schwab F, Wood K, Akbarnia B. (ISSG) Pain and Disability Determine Treatment Modality for Older Patients with Adult Scoliosis, While Deformity Guides Treatment for Younger Patients. Spine 2009; 34(20): 2186-90.

Cunningham ME, Cottrell J, Bilgic S, Boachie-Adjei O, van der Meulen M, Hidaka C.  In Vivo and In Vitro Analysis of Rat Lumbar Spine Mechanics. Clin Ortho Related Research 2010; 468: 2695-703.

Kim HJ, Kepler C, Cunningham M, Rawlins BA, Boachie-Adjei O. Pulmonary Embolism in Spine Surgery: A Comparison of Combined Anterior/Posterior Approach Versus Posterior Approach Surgery. Spine 2011; 36(2): 177-9.  

Kepler C, Huang R, Cunningham ME, Boachie-Adjei O.  Delayed Pleural Effusion after Anterior Thoracic Spinal Fusion Using Bone Morphogenetic Protein-2. Spine 2011; 36(5): E365-9.

Bowles RD, Gebhard HH, Dyke JP, Ballon DJ, Tomasino A, Cunningham ME, Hartl R, Bonassar LJ.  Image-based tissue engineering of a total intervertebral disc implant for restoration of function to the rat lumbar spine. NMR Biomed 2012; 25(3): 443-51.

Kim HJ, Yagi M, Nyugen J, Cunningham ME, Boachie-Adjei O.  Combined Anterior-Posterior Surgery is the Most Important Risk Factor for Developing Proximal Junctional Kyphosis in Idiopathic Scoliosis. Clin Ortho Related Research 2012; 470(6): 1633-9.

For more publications, please see the PubMed listing.

Selected Presentations

Sheela D, Rosenberg TJ, Rawlins BA, Hidaka C, Ronald C, Boachie-Adjei O, Cunningham ME.  Gene-Delivery Induced Intervertebral Disk Neoangiogenesis and Anterior Spine Fusion.  (ORS Annual Meeting, Long Beach, CA, January 2011.)

Sheela D, Cunningham ME. Intervertebral Disk Organ Culture System: A Pilot Study Assessing In Situ Cell Viability.  (ORS Annual Meeting, Long Beach, CA, January 2011.)

Kim HJ, Cunningham ME, Boatey J, Wright B,  Mendelow MJ, Hess WF, Paonessa KJ, King AB, Yagi M, Boachie-Adjei O. (CSSG,  FOCOS)  Infection Rates for Spine Surgery in Underserved and Underdeveloped Nations: A Review of a Consecutive Series in a SRS Global Outreach Program in Africa.  (IMAST Annual Meeting, Copenhagen, Denmark, July 2011.)

Yagi M, King AB, Cunningham ME, Boachie-Adjei O. Clinical and radiographic Outcomes of Pedicle Subtraction Osteotomy (PSO) for Fixed Adult Sagittal Imbalance: Does Level of Proximal Fusion Affect Outcome? (Podium/paper #18, SRS Annual Meeting, Louisville, KY.  September 2011.)

Cunningham ME. Percutaneous Gene-Delivery Mediated Intervertebral Body Fusion.  (NASS Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, November 2011.)


Research Interests

Molecular cellular biology aspects of bone formation and spinal fusion success.

Adapting gene-therapy and gene-delivery technology for minimally invasive or percutaneous spinal fusions

Development of comparative models to study and perfect spinal fusions and fracture care

Prospective clinical outcomes assessment in complex spinal surgery, with emphasis on development of evidence based medicine

Long term assessments of post-surgical complex spinal surgery patients, with emphasis on complication risk factors and techniques for avoidance

Industry Relationships

Industry Relationships

One of the goals of HSS is to advance the science of orthopedic surgery, rheumatology, and related disciplines for the benefit of patients. Physicians at HSS may collaborate with outside companies for education, research and medical advances. HSS supports this collaboration in order to foster medical breakthroughs; however HSS also believes that these collaborations must be disclosed.

As part of the disclosure process, this website lists physician collaborations with outside companies. The disclosures are provided by information provided by the physician and other sources and are updated regularly. Further information may be available on individual company websites.

Below are the healthcare industry relationships reported by Dr. Cunningham as of February 21, 2023.

  • Radius Health Inc.- Research Support
  • Sustain Surgical - Ownership Interest

By disclosing the collaborations of HSS physicians with industry on this website, HSS and its physicians make this information available to their patients and the public, thus creating a transparent environment for those who are interested in this information. Further, the HSS Conflicts of Interest Policy does not permit physicians to collect royalties on products developed by him/her that are used on patients at HSS.

Patients should feel free to ask their HSS physicians questions about these relationships.

Dr. Cunningham in the News