Minimally Invasive Lumbar Interbody Fusion in Patients Older Than 70 Years of Age: Analysis of Peri- and Postoperative Complications

Neurosurgery 68:897–902, 2011 DOI: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e3182098bfa

The number of spine operations performed in the elderly population is rising.

OBJECTIVE: To identify and describe perioperative and postoperative complications in patients 70 years and older who have undergone minimally invasive lumbar interbody spine fusion.

METHODS: A retrospective analysis was performed on 66 consecutive patients aged 70 years or older who underwent a minimally invasive interbody lumbar fusion. Electronic medical records were analyzed for patient demographics, procedures, and perioperative and postoperative complications.

RESULTS: Between 2000 and 2009, 66 patients with an average age of 74.9 years (range, 70-86 years) underwent 68 lumbar interbody fusions procedures. The mean follow-up was 14.7 months (range, 1.5-50 months). The minimally invasive approaches included 41 cases of extreme lateral interbody fusion and 27 minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusions. We observed 5 major (7.4%) and 17 minor (25%) complications. The 5 major complications consisted of 4 cases of interbody graft subsidence and 1 adjacent level disease. There were no intraoperative medical complications. There were no myocardial infarctions, pulmonary embolisms, hardware complications requiring removal, wound infections, major visceral, vascular, neural injuries, or death in the study period.

CONCLUSION: Minimally invasive interbody fusions can be performed in the elderly (ages 70 years and older) with an overall low rate of major complications. Graft subsidence in this population when not supplemented with posterior instrumentation is a concern. Age should not be a deterrent to performing complex minimally invasive interbody fusions in the elderly.