The Effect of Older Age on the Perioperative Outcomes of Spinal Fusion Surgery in Patients With Lumbar Degenerative Disc DiseaseWith Spondylolisthesis

Neurosurgery, Volume 87, Issue 4, 1 October 2020, Pages 672–678

Degenerative spondylolisthesis (DS) is often treated with lumbar spinal fusion (LSF). However, there is concern that the morbidity of LSF may be prohibitively high in older adults.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the impact of advanced age on the safety of LSF for DS.

METHODS: Patients who underwent LSF for DS were retrospectively identified from National Surgical Quality Improvement Program datasets for 2011 to 2015 using Current Procedural Terminology codes. Data on demographic characteristics, comorbidities, surgical factors, and 30-d morbidity and mortality were collected. Propensity score matching (nearest neighbor) was performed with age (<70 vs ≥70 yr) as the dependent variable and sex, type of fusion procedure, number of levels fused, diabetes, smoking, hypertension, and chronic steroid use as covariates. Outcomes were compared between age <70 and ≥70 groups.

RESULTS: The study cohort consisted of 2238 patients (n=1119, age<70; n=1119, age≥70). The 2 age groups were balanced for key covariates including sex, race, diabetes, hypertension, CHF, smoking, chronic steroid use, type of fusion, and number of levels. Rates of all complications were similar between younger and older age groups, except urinary tract infection, which was more frequent among the ≥70 age group (OR 2.32, P = .009). Further, patients in the older age group were more likely to be discharged to a rehabilitation (OR 2.94, P < .001) or skilled care (OR 3.66, P < .001) facility, rather than directly home (OR 0.25, P < .001).

CONCLUSION: LSF may be performed safely in older adults with DS. Our results suggest older age alone should not exclude a patient from undergoing lumbar fusion for DS.

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