Is Eighty the New Sixty? Outcomes and Complications after Lumbar Decompression Surgery in Elderly Patients over 80 Years of Age

World Neurosurg. (2018) 112:e555-e560.

An increasing demographic aging of the general population results in a rising incidence of octogenarians and nonagenarians with spine disease. Patients older than 65 years represent the majority of patients with degenerative lumbar spine disease in our daily clinical routine. Surgical treatment is undertaken reluctantly because of an increased rate of comorbidities. We therefore assessed complication rates of lumbar decompression in regard to neurological outcome and medical conditions in patients age 80 years or older in a retrospective singlecenter series.

METHODS: Data for 244 patients (124 female, 120 male; mean age, 83.1  3 years; age range, 80e95 years) who underwent decompressive surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis or disc herniation between April 2007 and February 2016 were assessed retrospectively. Age at surgery, neurologic deficits (preoperative and postoperative), relevant medical comorbidities and previous lumbar decompression, intraoperative and postoperative complications (e.g., surgery-related, medical), duration of surgery, length of hospital stay, and rate of revision surgeries were recorded.

RESULTS: Surgery was performed for lumbar stenosis (184 patients; 75.4%), lumbar disc herniation (13 patients; 5.3%) or both (47 patients; 19.3%). Seventy-six patients (31.3%) patients experienced preoperative neurologic deficits; 48 (63.2%) of these patients improved, 28 (36.8%) of them were unchanged after surgery, and none deteriorated. New transient, postoperative, neurologic deficits occurred in 6 patients (2.5%). All 55 (22.5%) intraoperative complications were mild to moderate, and no severe surgical complications occurred. Two hundred fifteen patients (88%) had relevant medical disorders. Nineteen (7.7%) postoperative medical complications were reported in 17 patients (7%), of which 14 (73.7%) were severe and 5 (26.3%) were mild (4 pulmonary embolisms, 6 pneumonias, 3 myocardial infarctions, 1 postoperative renal failure, 5 urinary tract infections). Medical complications that necessitated intensive care unit treatment and resulted in lethal outcome were seen in 2 patients (0.8%).

CONCLUSION: Despite their age, the vast majority of octogenarians and nonagenarians benefited from lumbar decompression surgery. Mild to moderate intraoperative complications were relatively frequent, whereas severe intraoperative complications did not occur. The majority of medical complications was severe, but the incidence was acceptable, and the postoperative outcome was still favorable in most patients

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