The safety profile of lumbar spinal surgery in elderly patients 85 years and older

Michael Y. Wang, Gabriel Widi, Allan D. Levi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Object The aging of the population will require that surgeons increasingly consider operating on elderly patients. Performing surgery safely in the elderly will require an understanding of the factors that predict successful outcomes and avoid complications. Methods Records of patients 85 years and older undergoing elective lumbar spinal surgery were retrospectively reviewed. Microdiscectomies were excluded. Preexisting medical illnesses measured using the Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI), American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Physical Status class, age, and surgical parameters were analyzed as factors potentially predictive of complications. Ambulatory function was rated on a 4-point scale. Results During the study 26 consecutive patients (mean age 87 years) with a mean ASA class of 2.6 ± 0.65 and CCI of 1.1 ± 1.27 were enrolled. The average number of levels treated was 2.17 ± 1.23, and 73% underwent fusion. The mean follow-up was 41.9 months with a minimum of 24 months, and all patients were alive at last follow-up. Average blood loss was 142 ± 184 ml, and the operative time was 183.3 ± 80.6 minutes. The mean number of levels treated was 2.17 ± 1.13 (range 1-4). Ambulatory function improved significantly by 0.59 ± 1.0 points. Five complications (19.2%) occurred in 4 patients, 2 major and 3 minor. Four complications were temporary and 1 was permanent. Patient age, blood loss, CCI score, ASA class, the number of levels treated, and fusion surgery were not statistically associated with a complication. Operative time of longer than 180 minutes (p = 0.0134) was associated with complications. Conclusions Lumbar spine surgery in patients 85 years and older can be accomplished safely if careful attention is paid to preoperative selection. Prolonged operative times are associated with a higher risk of complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE3
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015


  • Complications
  • Elderly
  • Fusion
  • Lumbar spine
  • Spine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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