Relief for back pain should be available to everybody – there should be no hesitation about seeking effective treatment, even if it involves surgery. Yet as a lumbar and cervical neck pain specialist in New Jersey, I frequently encounter patients who feel that they are not good candidates for herniated disc surgery because of their advanced age. Now a new report has confirmed that age should not be a barrier against this operation, which can bring a dramatic improvement in quality of life.
The study was conducted by researchers from St. Olav’s Hospital in Trondheim, Norway and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Investigators followed the cases of over 5,500 patients who had been diagnosed with a slipped disc, a common condition in which one or more of the discs that cushion the vertebrae get damaged and push forward, placing pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
The scientists assessed the treatment provided for all of the patients. For some, non-invasive approaches including heat, pain medications and exercise were all that was needed to provide sufficient relief. Those whose conditions and discomfort were more severe sought surgery. Upon reviewing patient records and breaking them down by age, the scientists found that 380 were 65 or older, while almost 5,200 were younger than that. The older patients who opted for surgery reported less pain after the procedure than the younger patients, though they did tend to stay in the hospital longer and there were more minor complications. None of the issues were serious, and none impacted the treatment’s effectiveness or overall success. Speaking of their findings, study leader Mattis Maddsbu said, “This study shows that it is fully possible to do good surgical research on elderly patients.”
Another study conducted by the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine looked at elective lumbar spine surgery performed on a population of patients who were 85 years of age and older. There were 26 patient records reviewed, with a mean age of 87. Though complications were reported, the study concluded that lumbar spine surgery could be accomplished safely in this group as well, as long as careful attention was paid to preoperative selection. Rather than focusing on a patient’s chronological age, spine specialists need to ensure that patients do not have risk factors that would invite surgical complications, and this is true for any age group.
The golden years should be a time of great happiness, but back pain can significantly impact quality of life. If you are older and suffering from back pain, do not let your age keep you from investigating a treatment that can provide you with dramatic improvement and a return to the activities that you love. Contact our lumbar spine specialty practice in New Jersey today to set up a convenient time to come in for an appointment.