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Thread: at 60 with 59/58 and going

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    at 60 with 59/58 and going

    I've recently turned 60 and have always had a 'bad' back from a car accident at 30. I was diagnosed with slight soliosis at 12 and told not to worry about it. I've always complained of back pain, but hey, you dig in and deal with it. I lost 2.5 inches but was tall anyway and told shrinking is a 'natural part of aging.' I finally was referred to a specialist for a newer issue with the neck and periodic intense pain and weakness in my arms. After reviewing my mris and xrays, the doctor didn't discuss my neck but gently explained the more urgent issue of my crumbling back, his suggestion of fusing from T5 all the way down, and to think sooner rather than later. wow---was I blown away!
    It took 3-4 weeks for me to get the image of the xray out of my mind, grasping what each pain reflected in the xray and start to feel 'normal' again rather than vulnerable.

    So now that I'm 60, a new prime for me in my new 'retired' life with many expectations and hopes and I'm facing surgery that will impact my life.
    I'm scared....and I need your help.
    I've been reading the forum but only recently had 'permission' to post. Through reading others, I've increased my understanding as well as more educated questions.

    I've had 2 other opinions since January, the second a well known orthopod who completely threw me off in discussing my deterioration due to arthritis and having no 'magic ball' to predict whether it would get worse. The third was a highly reputable neurosurgeon in a top instituion who I liked, had great creds, manner, and experience. He would also put in iliac screws (posts?) to stabilize further as well as decompress 2 discs that are shifting out of place. The first doctor was also an orthopod, and while I liked him, I didn't feel his office had enough experience in deteriorating scoliosis to do the surgery.
    So, why are most of the surgeries discussed done by orthopods and not neurosurgeons? is there a benefit one way or other? My healthfield friends all say neurosurgeon obviously because of the nerve center, but I'm curious about orthopods.
    The rest of my (current) questins have to do with recovery and recuperation. I understand the first week is 'the worst'. exactly what should I expect right after surgery? How mobile and how well do you feel 2-3 weeks out? Do I need to have caretakers around me? can I take care of myself? Told I would be walking a mile in 3 weeks sounds incredible...but what does it mean? Does that mean I will be almost back to 'normal' living?
    I also recently read about a dressing tool to aid in putting on socks and pants. Are you not able to do this easily otherwise? How flexible can you be with a totally fused back? I keep trying to imagine what it will be like for an otherwise very healthy, active---and flexible---person and am looking for some insight.
    thank you for any help. I know this isn't new to many of you, but it is where I'm at now.
    ...have I mentioned I'm scared?
    Judy
    60 years old
    59 lower
    58 upper

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
    Posts
    3,261
    Hi Judy and welcome to the forum. I had my surgery a few weeks short of 58. I'm 60 in a couple of weeks and am now pain free. My curve was 68 at time of surgery - up 2 degrees from 9 months previously. My scoliosis wasn't an issue until late 40s, early 50s, then deteriorated rapidly. I'm fused T4 to pelvis.

    My first thought is you need a scoliosis specialist surgeon rather than a straight orthopedic or neurosurgeon. But I agree with what your neurosurgeon says about the iliac bolts for stability. I'm glad I have them. I too, had arthritis in my lower back but now I'm fused, I have none of that old arthritic pain. I believe the reason is, arthritis needs movement and there is no longer any movement there.

    "I understand the first week is 'the worst'. exactly what should I expect right after surgery?

    I woke up in Intensive Care. I was calm, relaxed and without pain, thanks to the drugs. I knew exactly what was going on but couldn't see because my eyes were swollen shut from lying on my stomach for so long. Apparently this isn't unusual. I woke up on my back. I slept on and off through the night and next morning when my eyes were starting to open, they took me to my room. Several hours later, they sat me up. I was weak from blood loss and nearly fainted, so they laid me back down and gave me another unit of blood. Next day, I sat up, stood up and walked a few paces.

    How mobile and how well do you feel 2-3 weeks out?

    I walked the halls of the hospital 2-3 times a day from day 3. At three weeks, I was walking approx 50-60 metres.

    Do I need to have caretakers around me? can I take care of myself?

    Yes, I believe it's best to have someone with you for the first couple of weeks at least, at home. Some on this forum did it alone, but it would have been a bit scary at times. You mustn't bend, lift or twist, so for that reason alone, you will need help, preferably for a month. Once you are bending your knees (they get stronger quickly) you will find you can pick up things that are low down, but you shouldn't try to bend your back at this stage.

    Told I would be walking a mile in 3 weeks sounds incredible...but what does it mean? Does that mean I will be almost back to 'normal' living?

    I certainly wasn't walking a mile at 3 weeks, but I think the important thing is, that you walk a short distance every day, preferably twice a day, according to my surgeon. Not the distance so much, just doing it regularly. Getting outside lifts your spirits, makes you feel "normal" again, and I think the exercise increases your appetite which can be depressed by the medication. This is good, because you'll be replacing blood lost in surgery and healing requires good nutrition.

    I also recently read about a dressing tool to aid in putting on socks and pants. Are you not able to do this easily otherwise?

    I didn't need any aids, but some do, we're all different. My advice is not to purchase them in advance because they may not be needed, but find out how to source them so they can be purchased easily (or the hospital might supply them) if you do. I could dress myself but I only wore loose t shirts and pants.

    How flexible can you be with a totally fused back?

    I can pick a pin off the floor, but I have to use my knees. It was nearly a year before I could cut my toenails, shave my legs, tie shoelaces. I can do anything now, except run. Well, I can run, but my surgeon told me not to run again due to the extra wear and tear on the unfused vertebrae above my fusion.

    I keep trying to imagine what it will be like for an otherwise very healthy, active---and flexible---person and am looking for some insight.

    The first year is interesting. But being pain-free compensates for a LOT! But improvements keep happening into the 2nd year.

    thank you for any help. I know this isn't new to many of you, but it is where I'm at now.
    ...have I mentioned I'm scared?"

    You wouldn't be human if you weren't scared. I was terrified. My GP helped with mild anti anxiety meds, which also helped me sleep, so I got through it. I also got very fit, exercising 4-5 hours a day 7 days a week, those last few weeks. The amazing thing about fitness is, it gives you courage! Yes, sounds mad, but the fear left me, I looked forward to it being over and my new life ahead. It also took away most of my pain! But this didn't deter me from having the surgery because I knew I couldn't keep up that rate of exercise for the rest of my life and I knew fitness wouldn't halt my curve progression and it was rapidly getting worse.

    It was the best thing I ever did for myself. I hope you find this too. Good luck Judy!
    Last edited by JenniferG; 05-06-2011 at 05:13 PM.
    Surgery March 3, 2009 at almost 58, now 63.
    Dr. Askin, Brisbane, Australia
    T4-Pelvis, Posterior only
    Osteotomies and Laminectomies
    Was 68 degrees, now 22 and pain free

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Waterloo, IL
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    1,697

    surgery at 60 and doing fine!

    Judy,
    Welcome to the forum. I was 60 when I had my surgery in Jan., 2011, and I'm doing just fine. My Dr. said I could wait a year or two because I was enjoying my retirement, playing golf every day and other activities, and not in much pain. Dr. Lenke had a year waiting list, so I decided to "go for it." He also said the results would be better and the recovery would be easier if I didn't wait until I was a lot older. I was in good physical shape prior to the surgery which I think is an important factor to a good recovery. However, I think having one of the best scoliosis surgeons is a must for a surgery of this magnitude. If you start a thread with your location, I'm sure Linda, our moderator, can give you some names of the best doctors.
    I spent 1 week in the hospital and don't remember a whole lot, but don't think it was horrible. You will definitely need someone with you for the first few weeks after you go home. If you live alone, you might be more likely to qualify for rehab. after you leave the hospital. I blacked out at 3 weeks post-op and was glad my husband was right there.
    I don't think there are too many that can walk a mile at 3 weeks unless they take a break 1/2 way, but who knows? I had to walk laps in the house for the first few weeks because of bad weather. I'm now 4 months post op and walking 5 miles every day, so you get your strength back fairly quickly if you work at it.
    I started going out to lunch and dinner at about 6 weeks. It felt good to leave the house and be with other people.
    I am fused T4-sacrum and know I will have to deal with some loss of flexibility. For now, I still have my restrictions, so I haven't put my flexibility (or lack of) to the test. I have never regretted having the surgery and will deal with the inflexibility the best that I can. I play some amateur golf tournaments and may have to take lessons to get a "new swing".
    I almost forgot to mention . . . I was scared to death, but had so much support from this forum that I didn't feel like I was making a mistake to have the surgery. Check out my pictures. Besides looking better, I made the decision for surgery so that I would have a better future as I know my scoliosis was only going to get worse as I aged.
    Karen

    Surgery-Jan. 5, 2011-Dr. Lenke
    Fusion T-4-sacrum-2 cages/5 osteotomies
    70 degree thoracolumbar corrected to 25
    Rib Hump-GONE!
    Age-60 at the time of surgery
    Now 66
    Avid Golfer & Tap Dancer
    Retired Kdgn. Teacher

    See photobucket link for:
    Video of my 1st Day of Golf Post-Op-3/02/12-Bradenton, FL
    Before and After Picture of back 1/7/11
    tap dancing picture at 10 mos. post op 11/11/11-I'm the one on the right.
    http://s1119.photobucket.com/albums/k630/pottoff2/

  4. #4
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    May 2008
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    reno,nevada
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    Judy

    Its good that you started posting! Who else are you going to talk to about this? Welcome to the forum.

    Its past my bed time so I will keep this short. Look at my thread in my signature and you will see photos of me bending and twisting. Iím fused T2-pelvis.

    Ed
    49 yr old male, now 59, the new 55...
    Pre surgery curves C12,T70,L70
    ALIF/PLIF T2-Pelvis 01/29/08, 01/31/08 7" pelvic anchors BMP
    Dr Brett Menmuir St Marys Hospital Reno,Nevada

    Bending and twisting pics after full fusion
    http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/showt...on.&highlight=

    My x-rays
    http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/attac...2&d=1228779214

    http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/attac...3&d=1228779258

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Ames, Iowa
    Posts
    1,250
    Judy--
    Welcome to the forum. I'll do a short one tonight too since Jennifer and Karen have filled in tons of detail & Ed has the visuals. I will be 60 in about 2 months so right there with you. I had surgery at 57, T2-pelvis. Jennifer and I are about the same time frame and our experiences were quite similar. I probably have a little less flexibility than she described but not much. I was in the hospital 8 days and rehab 8 days. I don't remember much really. It was something I had to do since mine was progressing quite rapidly. Keep the questions coming. Janet
    Janet

    61 years old--57 for surgery

    Diagnosed in 1965 at age of 13--no brace
    Thoracic Curve: 96 degrees to 35 degrees
    Lumbar Curve: 63 degrees to 5 degrees
    Surgery with Dr. Lenke in St. Louis--March 30, 2009
    T-2 to Pelvis, and hopefully all posterior procedure.

    All was posterior along with 2 cages and 6 osteotomies.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Northern California
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    6,817
    Hi Judy...

    As at least one other person has mentioned, I think it's very important to find a physician who specializes in scoliosis. Finding well-known surgeons won't buy you much if they don't do a lot of long fusions. You can find a list of specialists here:

    http://www.srs.org/find/

    Also, if you let us know where you live, you'll probably get some recommendations from other members.

    Regards,
    Linda
    Never argue with an idiot. They always drag you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience. --Twain
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Surgery 2/10/93 A/P fusion T4-L3
    Surgery 1/20/11 A/P fusion L2-sacrum w/pelvic fixation

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Indianapolis area
    Posts
    966
    Welcome Judy!

    I'll add a couple things to what others have said. I think most of us go to orthopedic surgeons because we start out with them following our curves when we are younger. Plus scoliosis surgery is major bone manipulation! There are good nerve monitoring devices for the surgery.

    I have heard a couple people/doctors say that if you have neck problems you need to have that checked out and possibly fixed before scoliosis surgery. I think the issue is that the surgery itself can possibly put dangerous pressure on your neck. (You are face down for several hours, and also I think there can be risks of swelling.) Maybe Linda can clarify here.

    Good luck to you! I have had a lot of my questions answered here.

    Evelyn

    P.S. Karen--I just saw your photos. You look great!!!!!
    age 44
    80* thoracolumbar; 40* thoracic
    Reduced to ~16* thoracolumbar; ~0* thoracic
    Surgery 3/14/12 with Dr. Lenke, T4 to S1 with pelvic fixation
    Not "confused" anymore, but don't know how to change my username.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    New Bern, NC
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    1,445
    Welcome Judy,
    I believe also that many of the SRS Orthopedic surgeons are qualified Neurosurgeons. I know my Doctor is. I went to a Neurosurgeons first and he was not much help. He told me to wait until I was in a wheelchair. I found out later that he doesn't even work on scoliotic spines. I was 67 when I had my surgery and although my recovery was uneventful and good for a person my age, it was slow compared to a much younger person. Age is certainly not the only factor in recovery.
    Sally
    Diagnosed with severe lumbar scoliosis at age 65.
    Posterior Fusion L2-S1 on 12/4/2007. age 67
    Anterior Fusion L3-L4,L4-L5,L5-S1 on 12/19/2007
    Additional bone removed to decompress right side of L3-L4 & L4-L5 on 4/19/2010
    New England Baptist Hospital, Boston, MA
    Dr. Frank F. Rands735.photobucket.com/albums/ww360/butterflyfive/

    "In God We Trust" Happy moments, praise God. Difficult moments, seek God. Quiet moments, worship God. Painful moments, trust God. Every moment, thank God.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    40

    thanks...and more

    ugh...so does this site log you out if you don't stay active for a certain period of time? This is the second time I tried to send a reply and lost the text due to not being logged in.

    so,
    I want to thank everyone for their quick responses to my original thread. You've given me some solid information and I already feel a bit easier and more knowledgable about the impending surgery.

    Ed, your photos did wonders for me, I have been imaging being stiff like a board. Are you able to bend forward or backward at all?
    And with iliac posts, are your hips now immobilized as well?

    Evelyn, I'll look further into my neck being an issue. None of them can find anything significant with my cervical spine and the last dr commented my problem might ease with the spinal surgery. I am already starting to curve forward and that might be eased with the surgery.

    Jennifer and golfnut, thank you for being so systematic with my questions, I need those specifics to fully grasp what to expect...I feel so in a fog about outcome, and although I haven't had my followup with the surgeon yet, I need answers now like what will I have to give up and what will I be able to continue to do? can you garden? dance? (sex? which is a difficult one to answer online, I know I know)

    Recently, with the surgery seemingly forthcoming (still in denial?) I haven't had as much pain. It seems I've curtailed what I do enough as to not feel so badly. I've now decided to just live the way I want and do what I want....the pain reminds me of why I need surgery (sound crazy?)

    as for the other comments re drs. and recovery, you've given me additional info to start research from.

    I have 3 kids in their 20s (although they are all trying to establish themselves with work and living) a sister and friend who have all stated their total assistance for me. I wasn't sure how much I would really need someone there with me for how long, but it seems 3-4 weeks is a good timeframe.

    as for drs: I live in New Jersey, 30 minutes outside NYC.
    my second opinion was Dr. Neuwirth (whose name I have seen on this site and who performed surgery on a neighbor, although it was not scoliosis.) I did not care for his casualness and lack of approach.

    My third is Dr. Welch, neurosurgeon at Penn Hospital in Philly. He was highly recommended by a friend who was COO of the hospital and who helped a friend who recently had spinal surgery with him, although again, not scoli. He knew he was srictly a second opinion since he is 2 hrs away, but I liked his approach and immediate grasp of pain and situation, although I did not ask 'how many scoliosis patients...' I am going to follow up on that.

    btw what does SRS stand for?

    I am also strongly taking advice to exercise and be in good shape--I had already begun taking vitamin supplements and am seeking exercise advice that will be helpful, not harmful. I find some things I do hurt me later and need to be better informed on what I should and shouldn't do.

    thank you again for all the info. any other thoughts or recommendations are appreciated.
    Judy
    60 years old
    59 upper
    58 lower

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    40

    wow

    to loves to skate...
    I just saw your photos skating. You can do this with enough flexibility? and are not afraid post op? wow, I like this!
    Judy

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    6,817
    Hi Judy...

    SRS = Scoliosis Research Society, an organization for medical professionals who specialize in scoliosis and other spinal deformities.

    --Linda
    Never argue with an idiot. They always drag you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience. --Twain
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Surgery 2/10/93 A/P fusion T4-L3
    Surgery 1/20/11 A/P fusion L2-sacrum w/pelvic fixation

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    NJ
    Posts
    1,291

    Question neck?

    "[QUOTE=Confusedmom;121319]Welcome Judy!
    I have heard a couple people/doctors say that if you have neck problems you need to have that checked out and possibly fixed before scoliosis surgery. I think the issue is that the surgery itself can possibly put dangerous pressure on your neck. (You are face down for several hours, and also I think there can be risks of swelling.) Maybe Linda can clarify here."

    In my case I also had a curve in my neck which self-corrected when my thoracic and lumbar curves were reduced. With that in mind I would be afraid to do anything to the neck without having the scoliosis doc concurr. Scoliosis docs do not have the tunnel vision that a regular ortho or neurosurgeon might have if they just focus on one segment of the spine and then mess up the rest.

    Having given anesthesia for scoliosis surgery myself, care is taken to position the person properly to avoid any problems. There is a special frame and headpiece specifically designed for back surgery. Swelling is normal when a body part is dependent under anesthesia and has nothing to do with the neck.
    Last edited by Karen Ocker; 05-09-2011 at 06:00 PM.
    Original scoliosis surgery 1956 T-4 to L-2 ~100 degree thoracic (triple)curves at age 14. NO hardware-lost correction.
    Anterior/posterior revision T-4 to Sacrum in 2002, age 60, by Dr. Boachie-Adjei @Hospital for Special Surgery, NY = 50% correction

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Indianapolis area
    Posts
    966
    Thanks, Karen. I agree that consultation on the neck should be with the primary scoliosis surgeon. I just seem to recall a couple people on the forum who had to have neck issues fixed before scoliosis surgery. That's all I was thinking of. And, yes, my doctor also told me that scoliosis surgery (lower in the back) might help reduce my own neck pain.

    Evelyn
    age 44
    80* thoracolumbar; 40* thoracic
    Reduced to ~16* thoracolumbar; ~0* thoracic
    Surgery 3/14/12 with Dr. Lenke, T4 to S1 with pelvic fixation
    Not "confused" anymore, but don't know how to change my username.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    reno,nevada
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    Judy

    Construct your posts in another program or in a new e-mail and then copy, paste to the forum. This will prevent losing your material.

    You can see my full reach in those pictures. I can bend forward and get to about 3 inches from the floor. Itís a kind of ďtin manĒ motion only with soft tissues that allow extra movement,(around the spine)like in the rotation pictures. Iím fully fused up to T2, but I can rotate my shoulders to almost 45 degrees. I donít do backwards stuff! LOL

    The hips are fused to the spine. If Iím sitting in a chair and I want to look behind, I do have to get up to look back 180 degrees. Driving the car, I can see out the right rear passenger window.

    You would not be able to tell Iím fused and I have perfect posture. After you are released from the hospital, its very strange and stiff feeling, and yes, it hurts.....the first 4-6 weeks can be rough, and you wonder why you did it, but then time goes by, you heal, but mostly you adapt. I never thought I would be able to put my shoes on ever again, but you figure all this stuff out.....I came out pretty good but there were NO guarantees. One of the most important things is your immune system. Get yourself in prime condition, eat healthy, make sure you are in good shape beforehand. You also need to be aware of complications, and at the same time have that positive attitude. You need to accept the fact that something could happen, and might need another surgery.

    I grew up in Wayne, N.J. Moved west 31 years ago for skiing. There are many here from NJ on the forum...maybe they will post.

    Here is the SRS link
    http://www.srs.org/
    search
    http://www.srs.org/find/

    Ed
    49 yr old male, now 59, the new 55...
    Pre surgery curves C12,T70,L70
    ALIF/PLIF T2-Pelvis 01/29/08, 01/31/08 7" pelvic anchors BMP
    Dr Brett Menmuir St Marys Hospital Reno,Nevada

    Bending and twisting pics after full fusion
    http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/showt...on.&highlight=

    My x-rays
    http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/attac...2&d=1228779214

    http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/attac...3&d=1228779258

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    6,817
    Quote Originally Posted by titaniumed View Post

    The hips are fused to the spine.
    Yikes! That's incorrect. The hips don't even attach to the spine. If it were true, one would not be able to sit (unless they were fused in the sitting position, in which case one would not be able to stand!).

    --Linda
    Last edited by LindaRacine; 05-10-2011 at 01:23 PM.
    Never argue with an idiot. They always drag you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience. --Twain
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Surgery 2/10/93 A/P fusion T4-L3
    Surgery 1/20/11 A/P fusion L2-sacrum w/pelvic fixation

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