How Old Is Too Old For Spine Surgery?

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: September 6, 2021

Old Man Back Pain

Older individuals are at a higher risk for developing health conditions that can be best corrected with a surgical procedure, but age also tends to have an impact on the likelihood of surgical success. In other words, while a corrective procedure could prove beneficial, your doctor may opt for other solutions if your age makes the procedure too risky. So this begs the question, “how old is too old for spine surgery?”

As you might imagine, there is no specific age cutoff for whether or not a surgeon will move forward with a procedure, but there are a number of factors that play into the decision to operate. Below, we take a closer look at when a person may be too old to undergo spine surgery.

Am I Too Old For Spine Surgery?

Age is oftentimes nothing but a number, because we’ve seen very healthy 85-year-olds and very unhealthy individuals in their forties, so age alone is never the deciding factor on whether or not someone can safely have spine surgery. While age is taken into account, these factors serve as a better basis for whether or not a spine surgeon will decide to operate.

  • Overall Health – The biggest factor in determining whether or not surgery would be in the cards for you is an examination of your overall health and fitness. Are you in relatively good health, or have things gone downhill for you over the past few years? If you’re in good health for your age, spine surgery may be perfectly safe in your 70s or even 80s.
  • Comorbidities – Similarly, the doctor will also look at any health comorbidities that could complicate your procedure. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, your surgeon may choose not to operate unless you get certain numbers under control. Being overweight or obese can also affect the decision to operate.
  • Cost-Benefit Ratio – Another big factor in whether or not a surgeon elects to perform spine surgery is taking into account the overall benefit to the patient compared to the risk. If the patient stands to make a big improvement in their overall physical function after their procedure, and the risks of complications are relatively low, then that procedure is more likely to move forward than one that carries more risk and less certainty that it will solve the problem.
  • Will Conservative Care Help? – Oftentimes surgery is not considered unless non-operative care has failed to address the problem. We’re not going to jump to a surgical approach if six weeks of physical therapy will likely calm symptoms or alleviate the problem. Whether or not an operation is in your future oftentimes depends on how effective other treatments might be.
  • Patient Wishes – Finally, we always take into account the patient’s wishes and desires. If they are adamant about having the procedure, we’ll make sure that we cover all their options, explain the possible outcomes and do everything we can to ensure their procedure is a success. If the patient would rather avoid surgery or try a different approach, we’ll do what we can to pursue these options. We help educate the patient as best as we can, and then we listen to what they want.

If you are wondering if you would be eligible for a spinal procedure, or you just want a provider to get to the bottom of your spine pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and the team at the Midwest Spine & Brain Institute today.

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