I just came back from the surgeon's office with my father who is facing possible spinal surgery. They are talking about doing a lumbar fusion on him. This completely freaks me out. He's 82-years old for goodness sakes! At his age, major surgery like this could put him in the grave. I know I'm probably being overly dramatic but I'm afraid to lose him. Should he go through with this?
More and more adults are living longer and reaching that magical age of 80, which puts them in the octogenarian group of seniors. But aging doesn't always come without a price. Often, the effects of degenerative spine disease create painful disabilities that interfere with enjoyment in life. At 82, your father has lived just slightly past the average expected lifespan for an American male. But that isn't a death certificate -- many people (both men and women) are living well beyond 90 these days! Surgeries like spinal fusion that wouldn't have been considered possible even 20 years ago are now available. Improved surgical techniques, advances in technology, and minimally invasive procedures have opened up many more treatment possibilities for seniors than ever before. Of course, your concerns are valid. Any surgery (including spinal fusion) has risks. But surgeons are better able today to weigh the risks against the benefits and offer patients options like surgery. Age is no longer the most limiting factor. Yes, they do take the patient's age into consideration. But they also look at bone quality and number of levels that need fusion. General health is evaluated including the presence of other health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease that could cause complications. If there are unreasonable risks of complications, then surgery is not advised. Quality of life, independence, and staying active are three important aspects of life in later years. Older adults like your father with disabling, degenerative back and/or leg pain, don't have to give up. It sounds like his surgeon thinks he is a candidate for a procedure like the minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion. If your father will agree, it might help you to talk to his surgeon about the specific risks and benefits for your father. With more information, you might see it in an entirely different light.