Object. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the surgical treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis in patients older than 75 years of age.
Methods. The authors reviewed the records of 65 patients with lumbar spinal stenosis who were at least 75 years of age at the time of surgery, which was performed between November 1990 and May 1996.
The 65 patients (43 women, 22 men; average age 78 years) underwent a total of 71 operations (one patient underwent three, and four patients underwent two). Fifteen patients (21%) underwent isolated lumbar decompression, and 56 patients (79%) underwent decompression in conjunction with posterior spinal fusion. There was an average of 1.7 levels decompressed per isolated lumbar decompression and 2.6 levels per decompression and fusion procedure. Seven patients (10%) experienced one or more serious postoperative complication, which included wound infection, septicemia, small bowel obstruction, stroke, myocardial infarction, gastrointestinal bleeding, and pulmonary embolus. In addition there was one intraoperative complication (hypotension [1%]) that required modification of the planned surgical procedure. No deaths were documented in the perioperative period.
Conclusions. With appropriate preoperative selection and evaluation, careful intraoperative monitoring, and attentive perioperative care, the surgical treatment of elderly patients with lumbar spinal stenosis can effect significant improvement with acceptable levels of morbidity and mortality.