5 Risks Elderly Patients Face During Spine Surgery

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: October 4, 2016

Spine Surgery Elderly Patient

Surgery, no matter how small or simple the operation is, always involves some risks. How adverse these risks are depend on a number of different factors, including the health of the patient, the type of procedure being performed, and much more. Another factor that affects the likelihood of risks or adverse events during surgery is a patient’s age. Today, we take a look at five risks elderly patients face when undergoing spine surgery.

5 Geriatric Spine Surgery Risks

This list isn’t unique to elderly patients, as people of all ages can be affected by these complications. However, an older population is at greater risk than the average person for these spinal surgery risks.

Blood Clots

According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, older patients are at a greater risk for developing blood clots after a spinal surgery operation. Movement helps to prevent the development of blood clots after spine surgery, but older patients who have undergone spine surgery are less likely to be able to move and exercise as easily as younger populations. Also, some blood thinners to prevent clots may not be the best idea, as they can cause other issues in older adults.


When possible, surgeons will opt to perform minimally invasive operations on patients because it reduces the risk of an infection. This is especially true in older populations, whose bodies aren’t as capable of fighting off an infection as younger individuals.

Blood Loss

Surgeons oftentimes have to cut through and into tissues and organs in order to access the problemed areas of the spine. Surgical teams prepare for some blood loss, but they can only do so much. Ultimately it comes down to your body’s ability to prevent blood loss and start the healing process, and this is harder in an older population.

Failed Surgery

Unfortunately, surgical success rates also decline if the patient is elderly. Some spine operations depend on the strength of other areas of the spine in order to have success, and odds are older adults don’t have as much healthy muscle in that area as a 40-year-old. Also, because numerous disc issues are a result of years of wear and tear on your spine, an older patient is more likely to have more spinal degeneration, which can cause the operation to fail.

Post Surgery Falls

The elderly population is already at a greater risk for fall injuries, but that risk increases after a spinal operation. A person is likely to have limited mobility and decreased spine strength in the first few weeks after an operation, and this can lead to falls. Additionally, some people experience balance or coordination issues while they are getting back on their feet after spine surgery, and when this happens in an older adult, falls can follow.

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