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Spine Feature

Dr. Castellvi and his wife Ramona

Tony Castellvi, 61, Spine Surgeon and Research Luminary

Robin Young • Tue, February 25th, 2014

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It is with a heavy heart that we pass along the news that one of the spine community’s most beloved surgeons, Antonio (Tony) Castellvi, died suddenly this past Saturday morning. The cause of death, we understand, was a pulmonary embolism.

Dr. Castellvi is survived by his wife and best friend of 38 years, the wonderful Ramona, and their three children: Ramona Little, 36, Antonio “Cheech” Castellvi, 35, and Alejandro Castellvi, 30.

During the course of his career, Antonio E. Castellvi, M.D. played a very important role in expanding the understanding of motion preservation and became one of the leading experts in the field of preservation of motion. His research in this area led to numerous publications in both Spanish and English and podium presentations at more than 50 conferences and meetings nationally and internationally.

Dr. Castellvi was an honors graduate of the University of Zaragoza Medical School in Spain and completed his orthopedic residency at the University of South Florida, his spine fellowship at the University of Rochester.

Over the course of more than 30 years, Tony built a very successful practice focusing on cervical, lumbar or thoracolumbar problems, degenerative disease and deformity, scoliosis, reconstruction, spinal cord injury and motion preservation.

Since 2005, Dr. Castellvi also served as course chair for Current Solutions in Spine Surgery in Hawks Cay, Florida—otherwise known as the “Duck Key Meeting.” Tony’s meeting was one of the highlights of the year for many researchers and practitioners. Additionally, he served as a board member of the International Society for the Advancement of Spine Surgery and is one of 10 members to review abstracts to determine which will be presented internationally.

Tony also found time to serve as an assistant professor at the University of South Florida and Director of Spine Fellowship at the Florida Orthopaedic Institute.

But what most of us who knew him will remember best is Tony, the man. He was bigger than life, full of passion for his patients, for the science, for his colleagues and above all for his family. The world is truly diminished with Tony gone.

The funeral Mass for Antonio E Castellvi will be Wednesday at 2pm at Christ the King. The wake will be Tuesday evening at 6pm at Christ the King Catholic Church at 821 S. Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa 33609 with reception to follow.

Ever since word of Tony’s passing began making the rounds, condolences and remembrances have been streaming in from everywhere.

Anyone who would like to give a gift in remembrance of the life of Antonio Castellvi is invited to donate to Christ the King Scholarship Fund (Elementary school) in Tampa Florida and to Tony’s Foundation for Orthopaedic Research and Education (FORE)

Here are some of comments from his friends. All are invited to pen their respects in the comment section below.

“Tony was a ‘true innovator and thought leader in spine surgery and he always managed to do so with a smile on his face and a glad hand’ My thoughts are with his family and friends.” – Tom Errico

“When I think of Tony, I think of someone larger than life; he really loved life more than just about anyone I know. He was never shy with his opinion and never afraid to challenge conventional thought. I always thought of Tony as a clinician scientist—meaning he always thought about the patient and his/her outcome from a pragmatic view, yet he grounded everything he did in data and evidence. One thing I always loved about Tony is that you always knew where you stood with him. The spine community lost a real asset on Saturday.

Thanks.” – Marc V.

“Trained by Lou Goldstein and Don Chan. Tony’s key paper was on transitional vertebra which was published in Spine 1984. He really enjoyed innovative spine technology.” – David Polly

“Tony's life was taken suddenly this past Saturday. He will be sorely missed not only as a leader in spine surgery but also as an innovator. His wonderful Duck Key meeting is one of the current great and one of my favorite spine meetings. His friendship, warm smile and laugh will remain in my memory forever. Our prayers and thoughts go out to his wife Ramona and his beautiful family.”

Richard D Guyer, MD
Texas Back Institute

“This is Terrible news!!!!!! Colleagues were drawn to Tony by his kindness and outgoing warm personality. In addition to his commitment to his patients, Tony was an innovator, involved in the development and study of a number of novel spinal technologies. He was however truly in his element during his annual course in the Keys when he was leading clinical case discussions; challenging us to think critically and at the same time applying his ample common sense to solving clinical challenges. The spine world has lost a loyal friend, teacher, strong patient advocate and an outside of the box problem-solver."

Frank M. Phillips, MD
Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery
Spine Fellowship Co-Director
Rush University Medical Center
Chicago IL

"I am saddened to hear of Tony's passing. He made many important contributions to the spine surgery world, particularly in assessing new operative techniques for the treatment of common spinal disorders. His loss will be felt." – Chris Bono

"Tony was a wonderful husband, father, friend, physician, educator, inventor and perhaps most of all—a pleasure to spend time with. There was never a boring moment when with him. His laugh was contagious as was his enthusiasm for life with a focus on family, science and fishing. Tony will be sorely missed.” – Stephen Hochschuler

"Tony was the type of surgeon who was passionate about his belief that motion preservation is a goal for spine procedures when feasible. More importantly, he demonstrated his focus on this issue by including and not dismissing others who may have alternative methods to achieve this same goal. I have personally benefitted by Tony's friendship and his courses at Duck Key where education, recreation and camaraderie made this one of the most popular courses worldwide. Tony will be sorely missed by all of us." – Tony Yeung

“Tony is a gentle man who loved his family and his work. He is also a thrill seeker. He is both very private about himself but very open and generous to his friends. His achievement of establishing a yearly spine meeting in the Keys of Florida that attracted open dialogue on the progress of Spine Care and Surgery based on Sound Scientific grounds has become a must attend for many of us. His generous dedication of time and energy for ISASS will be much missed, but his example has already prompted many of his colleagues and friends to carry on. He will be missed by many of us, who has only fond memories of him.” – Hansen Yuan

“The spine field has suffered another great loss today; Tony was a true leader, a great teacher and wonderful doctor for his patients. He will be sorely missed but he leaves the spine field richer due to his lifetime of work.”

Eric Muehlbauer
Executive Director
North American Spine Society

“Dr. Castellvi was a charming, stimulating, and a great person to be around. There are those who take energy from us in interaction and those that give us energy and inspiration. Tony gave in abundance and will be sorely missed by all.”

Alex Lukianov
Chairman and CEO
NuVasive, Inc.


OTW has been asked to provide the following links for donations/condolences/remembrances etc.

  1. Dr. Castellvi's obituary:
  2. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made as follows:
    FORE (Foundation for Orthopaedic Research & Education) -
    Christ the King Church on behalf of Tony Castellvi -

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23 Responses to “Tony Castellvi, 61, Spine Surgeon and Research Luminary”

  1. Federico P. Girardi, MD says:

    Dr Castellvi was a perfect example of what a great spine surgeon should be. He achieved a good balance in life succeeding in all aspects of and prioritizing family, friends and patients. He was unique and will be missed.

  2. Federico Pollicina says:

    Dr Castelvi save my life June 8 2013

  3. I have known Tony and his brothers Willie and Jochi since we were kids. We vacationed together with our family’s. Our children grew up together. Aside from all of his great accomplishments in spine surgery his even greater accomplishment was tha of a Father Husband and friend. There will always be a void in my heart. I love you and miss you my Brother. May God smile on you for ever !!!!! Luis Crespo MD

  4. John I. Maynard says:

    So sad to hear of the passing of such a great figure in our industry. Dr. Castelvi was always the quintessential gentleman to everyone he dealt with, regardless of their station in life. I knew Tony over the years as someone with whom I periodically worked as a distributor and rep. He always greeted me with his contagious ear to ear grin along with his full attention and respect. All of us in the industry will miss him as a great surgeon but even more importantly as a great friend! John I. Maynard

  5. Mary Canedy says:

    I have never met a finer gentleman than Dr. Castellvi. He allowed me to walk again on Sept. 9, 2013. I am proud of my 10″ scar down my back, and will wear it with pride!

  6. From all of us Aurora Spine – We are deeply saddened by the death and loss of our friend Dr. Castellvi. His smile & passion will forever be missed.

    Team Aurora

  7. Cynthia (Billys) Olson says:

    My heart, too, is heavy with the loss of Tony. Even though I only had the pleasure of his presence a few times and at Cheech’s wedding, Dr Castellvi was beautiful in my eyes. Ramona, Jorge and the rest of your beautiful family, please know that this was God’s will. Trust that his wonderful life on earth will continue through you

  8. Jeffrey Baker says:

    Dr. Castellvi just performed spinal fusion on me a month ago. I could not have found a more brilliant physician and kinder gentleman than he. I feel lost without him in the follow up care I might need, but I feel even greater sorrow in losing what felt like a true friend.

  9. George Alvarez says:

    I rarely read the newspaper but to pick it up on this rare occasion and be hit with this awful, awful loss is devastating to all of us who knew and loved “Nuno”.
    My heart and tearful condolences go to his family and those who were lucky enough to cross his path.
    Sincere prayers,
    George Alvarez
    (Anselmo & Caridad’s son not the photographer!)

  10. Rafael Ramos says:

    I don´t believe it… from Spain, all the spine surgeons are… I don´t know what is the appropiate word in english…
    Personally, Tony showed me a new view of medical decisions…His entusiasm in his work and his family showed me a new perspective…..His big smile and passion will forever be missed…
    My family heart condolences go to his family… My little son… Juan, knowed him 6 months later and doesn´t understand whats happened. He remenbered him with a big smile and how a respected friend of me.
    I´m sorry for my English…
    Dr. Rafael Ramos
    Spine Service. University of Valladolid

    • Ramona says:

      I want to thank you for your kind comments on Tony. He enjoyed having you here with him & meeting your fantastic family. He had expressed the desire to visit you in Spain this summer. As you can imagine, his passing was quite a shock. Please keep him in your prayers…
      Ramona Castellvi

  11. John Conti says:

    My condolences go out to the Castellvi family. I had the great pleasure of working with him several years ago when I was a regional sales manager at a spine company. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

  12. April Strouse says:

    My son became a patient of Dr. Castellvi in Dec./January 2013-14; and as a former Surgical Technician; in the Tampa
    Bay area I new of his surgical expertise and was very
    relieved; to know my son was in good “hands”…..from myself
    and family, we extend with much saddness, our deepest,
    sincere sympathy to his family.

    With much respect…..April Strouse & family

  13. Frank Brown says:

    I’m currently in Jacksonville, FL for a family member’s back surgery and when I asked the doctor if he knew of my doctor, I was informed of Dr. Castellvi’s passing. It is because of Dr. Castellvi that I finally decided to retire from the Army after 22 years and his words will always remain with me. “If it was up to me you’d be retiring, not headed to Afghanistan”. I made it back safely and informed him of my pending retirement. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to be injected and advised by the best in the business so that I could continue to serve. My thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Castellvi’s family and those that worked for such a passionate man that truly cared for his patients…

  14. Deborah Poutre says:

    Dr. Castellvi was my Spine Doctor and performed 3 fusions on my sprine. One was on my cervical spine and 3 on my lumbar, which one was to remove hardware from my first Lumbar surgery. Dr. Castellvi was always honest with me, He would tell me exactly what he thought and just did not perform another surgery on me just for “the hell of it'” I admired that in him, because I have had doctors in the past that just said “surgery”. I remember on one of my visits he said my spine was in a deteriorating state, and told me that he will refer to me as his Annuity. Of course that was the relationship I had with him and Chuck. His staff were always wonderful and helpful to me as well. He is missed by his family and his extended family; his patients. May he RIP.

  15. Kristy Radcliffe says:

    Tony Castellvi was a valued member of ISASS and will be greatly missed. He generously gave of his time and knowledge to help advance the science of spine surgery. He was a Program Chair for the upcoming ISASS14, his guidance and wisdom steered the other program chairs in developing a meeting of important sessions. We will honor him and think of him dearly throughout this meeting and the many to come. I will miss his warm smile, playful laugh and quick wit. Tony, you will be with us in spirit. What you have taught others will live on and help future patients. You left us way too early.

  16. Alejandro Reyes-Sánchez says:

    Dear Castelvi Family:
    When I know about these terrible news, I did not belive.
    Now in a litlle more tranquilly I send to you all my sincery condolence.
    I recive to him many advice and example to see the spine surgery in diferents ways.
    Thanks to him and I hope you recive the paix and resignation in the confort of family and freind.

  17. Boylan says:

    Dr castelvi did my back surgery on jan 10th thank god no more pain my appointment is on 18th march a fantastic personality and I was lucky to have him as my dr R.I.P

  18. Jim Crawford says:

    Tony was a great man. He was an inspiration to many. He was dedicated to touching peoples lives and made everyone feel important. A true gentlemen. My prayers are with his beautiful wife and children.

  19. susan ferrill says:

    I think of Dr. Castellvi often and everything I learned from him when I was surgical technician student. He gave me a good foundation that I just can not shake even after 30 years. Thank you tony, you left some deep imprints on this earth

  20. Kathryn A. Huston says:

    I am so sorry to just not to long ago to fine out that Dr. Castellvi had pass on. He was my back surgin over 22 years ago. He was a great Dr. and cared about his work and family. My prayers are with his family. Kathryn A. Huston

  21. Erika B.White says:

    I am so sorry to learn of the loss of Dr. Castellvi. He was going to perform spinal surgery on my brother. He was a very kind surgeon who really cared about his patients. His family will be in my prayers.

  22. Eddie Kenny says:

    I was sharing with colleagues the miracle of my spinal fusion surgery with the two year anniversary of the operation approaching when I learned Dr. Castellvi had passed away. I was shocked and saddened. I am simply one of many who benefited from his expertise. I send my prayers and thanks to his family for allowing him to share his talents with so many. He is no doubt missed. God Bless to all.

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