Spinal Stenosis Surgery for the 75 and Older Crowd
People in many countries are living longer in good health. They are staying active, but many age-related diseases can get them down. One of these is a back condition called spinal stenosis. This is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal cord travels down this canal from the brain to the low back.
Spinal stenosis can cause severe pain that keeps the patient from walking more than a few feet without stopping. There's an operation that can help open up the space and reduce the symptoms. But if you're over age 75, the risks that go with surgery can increase. And if you also have other problems, such as heart disease or diabetes, you may decide to skip the operation and just live with the pain.
A recent study from Israel offers some new hope. One doctor operated on 122 patients with spinal stenosis. All were 75 years old and older. Many of these patients had more than one medical condition. Careful records were kept to see how well these patients did.
There were some problems after surgery. Problems included chest pain, heart failure, and wound infection. No one had to stay in the hospital longer because of these problems. Patients were much better after the operation. There was less pain, and they could complete more of their daily activities. Walking distance increased greatly.
The author of this study concludes that older adults can benefit from surgery for spinal stenosis. Even with other diseases present, the results can be good. Patients report reduced back and leg pain. They can do more and walk farther. It's not necessary to avoid this surgery just because of age and age-related conditions.
Brian Fredman, et al. Observations on the Safety and Efficacy of Surgical Decompression for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis in Geriatric Patients. In European Spine Journal. December 2002. Vol. 11. No. 6. Pp. 571-574.