Americans are living longer than ever before and many of them are living with back pain. Older Americans may suffer back pain due to a variety of causes. Back pain may be severe enough to cause sustained disability in these cases. NeuroEndospine surgery has unique applications and benefits for senior citizens living with back pain.
Unique qualities of the geriatric patient requiring surgery
Arthritis and degeneration occurs following repeated wear and tear to the spine during one’s younger years. Geriatric patients will often have multiple and diffuse spinal abnormalities present on X-ray or an MRI. Unlike younger patients, there is often not a single discernible abnormality to point to a cause for back pain. Thus, a careful and thoughtful analysis is warranted.
It is much more common for spinal joint arthritis to occur in older patients than in younger ones. The spinal joint commonly involved is called the “facet” joint. Traditional treatment of painful facet joint arthritis typically requires multiple injections and nerve “coagulation” procedures that may have to be repeated.
The long-standing wear and tear that the geriatric spine receives over a lifetime can lead to what is called “hypertrophy.” Hypertrophy occurs when ligaments and joints under long term stress enlarge to support that stress. In older patients this hypertrophy means that one can develop narrowing in the normal spinal channels that nerves pass through. This can irritate and compress spinal nerves. This is called spinal stenosis.
In addition to certain types of spine related issues, the aging back pain patient has other unique characteristics. Some geriatric patients have significant medical problems. These underlying medical problems may increase the risk of large operations and general anesthesia.
Lastly, geriatric patients are at risk of certain medical issues if immobilized for significant time after surgery. These issues include lung problems, infections and vein clotting problems. Therefore, it is important that geriatric patients rapidly regain mobility after surgery.
NeuroEndospine surgery for the geriatric patient
Since the geriatric spine rarely looks entirely normal on an MRI, it’s important for the NeuroEndospine surgeon to pinpoint the exact cause of pain and look past MRI abnormalities that are related to normal wear and tear. At its core, NeuroEndospine surgery is a “targeted” and “precise” operation. Patients may undergo extensive testing, including diagnostic injections, to pinpoint the cause of pain. Only the cause of pain and disability is treated by NeuroEndospine surgery.
NeuroEndospine surgery is the only permanent therapy available for spinal facet joint arthritis, a common cause of back pain in the geriatric patient. Unlike other treatments for this painful arthritis, the procedure does not need to be repeated; it’s proven to be permanent.
When hypertrophy (bony enlargement) due to chronic spine stress causes a narrowing of nerve passageways (spinal stenosis), NeuroEndospine surgery may provide a least invasive option to open those nerve passageways. A small tube with a lens can be inserted into the spine and, using high-definition video guidance, microscopic drills and tools are inserted to enlarge the spinal openings. The entire procedure is, once again, performed through a “band-aid” type incision. This affords a faster and easier recovery than traditional operations for spinal stenosis.
In some cases, NeuroEndospine surgery can be performed with only moderate sedation, avoiding general anesthesia. This is advantageous in cases where the geriatric patient has underlying medical problems that can increase the risk associated with general anesthesia.
The biggest advantage that NeuroEndospine surgery holds for seniors is that NeuroEndospine surgery is the least invasive means of performing effective spinal surgery. The procedure retains the same results as larger surgeries while utilizing a “band-aid” incision and returning patients to home the same day. Shorter recovery times means that geriatric patients can be up and about sooner, avoiding the diminished mobility and prolonged recovery times that cause problems like infections, vein clotting and lung issues. Patients can walk and are able to perform light exercises the day after surgery.
In addition to the benefits of being able to treat joint arthritis and spinal stenosis, pinpointing the cause of pain, avoiding anesthesia complications and faster recovery, geriatric patients have the same benefits as anyone else who undergoes NeuroEndospine surgery. These include the ability to avoid spinal fusion, maintaining the normal core strength of the spine and avoiding collateral injury to spinal joints and ligaments.
- Geriatric patients have multiple abnormalities in their spinal MRI, but not all of them are problematic.
- NeuroEndospine surgery utilizes special diagnostic tests to identify the cause of pain and ignore normal wear and tear.
- Chronic wear and tear can cause enlargement of ligaments and joints in the geriatric spine, causing pressure on nerves.
- NeuroEndospine surgery is the least invasive means to open up the nerve passages compressed in spinal stenosis.
- Spinal joint arthritis is a common cause of low back pain in geriatric patients.
- NeuroEndospine surgery is the only permanent treatment for pain from spinal facet joint arthritis.
- Geriatric patients may have underlying medical problems, increasing the risk of anesthesia.
- In some cases NeuroEndospine surgery can be performed with sedation, avoiding the risks of anesthesia.
- Geriatric patients can develop medical problems if they are subject to prolonged recovery and immobility after surgery.
- NeurEndospine surgery recovery is rapid. Patients are walking and performing light exercise the day after surgery.