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Thread: Total Spinal Fusion

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Question Total Spinal Fusion

    I am inquiring on behalf of my Mom who is 60 years of age and has just been told that she needs a total spinal fusion. She is very scared about the quality of life you can end up with. Is there anyone out there that has had this done at around this age and what was the outcome? She was diganosed when she ws 13, wore a brace until 15. She then had 5 vertabrae fused(she's not too sure now which ones) and the rods put in. The rods broke when she was about 20 and they redid the surgery and fused 7 vertabraes at that time. Then when she was 27 or so they took the rods out and has not has surgery until now. She was told by her one dr that she didn't need anymore surgery that her scoliosis would not progress anymore and then seen another dr for a 2nd opinion and he is suggesting spinal fusion. She is awaiting a 3rd opinion just to be sure - little confusing when 1 says no and then the other 6 months later says yes. My Mom lives in Alberta and it was Dr. Swamy of Calgary that suggested the surgery. Has anyone dealt with him, and if so, what do you think of him? Does anyone have any other Dr.'s in Alberta that they can recommend? Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

    Last edited by peanut; 03-03-2009 at 03:38 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Hi peanut! Welcome to the forum. That is so good of you to be searching for help for your mom here-- and I'm sure she must appreciate that!

    I'm a little confused by what you mean by "total spinal fusion", so it would help me if you could explain that. There are many of us that have LONG fusions and ara also in that "older" category. I had my surgery at age 56 and was fused from T2-L4-- so 15 vertebrae...

    The surgery and recovery time for older adults is longer than in younger people and you could say it is tough, but some bounce back better than others. There may be some limitations that will be lifelong-- like no bending or twisting-- and possibly not lifting things that are very heavy. My recovery has been pretty slow but mostly steady-- and I think other than a little stiffness I look pretty good. I walk well and have a lot of energy most of the time. I have a hard time getting things off the floor, but use a reacher or expend a lot of effort to squat (that is a weakness of mine-- lousy squatter!) I have an active job being the librarian at an elementary school, have lunch and recess duties, etc., and am able to do that sort of work now. I did have to take a good year + summer off from work. At my last appt. (at 21 months post-op) my surgeon said I could try doing what I want (I had restrictions till then) -- but to use common sense. I am no longer under a lifting weight restriction, but imagine I wouldn't want to lift more than 20 lbs. Plus I thinkit helped that I had physical therapy and learned proper body mechanics for doing things like that-- such as holding the object you are lifting close to your body.

    There are some other "older" adults on here that hopefully will respond. We all seem to have varying recoveries based on how our bodies heal and what we went through. Best wishes for your mom!
    66 and still heartbroken...
    2007 52 w/ severe lumbar stenosis & L2L3 lateral listhesis (side shift)
    5/4/07 posterior spinal fusion T2-L4 w/ laminectomies and osteotomies @L2L3, L3L4
    Dr. Kim Hammerberg, Rush Univ. Medical Center in Chicago

    Corrected to 15
    2014 DXd w/CMT (type 2)

    Click to view my pics: pics of scoli x-rays digital x-rays, and pics of me

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Northern California

    I know Dr. Swamy from when he was a fellow at UCSF. He has excellent training, so your mom is in good hands. And, he seems like a very nice man.

    I've known quite a few women who have had long fusions in their 60's, 70's, and even 80's. Age has become less of an obstacle. However, age definitely increases the incidence of complications, so your mom should be mentally prepared for a few. The doctors at UCSF have done quite a bit of research on big spinal surgeries in older patients, especially in terms of nutrition, so I'm sure Dr. Swamy knows some of the tricks to help get your mom through the surgery and recovery.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Thumbs up

    Thanks Linda for the info. It is great to hear that Dr. Swamy has excellent training. It's just hard to know when 1 Dr says no surgery and another says yes - can be a little confusing. Appreciate the info and I will pass it on to my Mom.


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