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Thread: Aging Fusions

  1. #1
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    Sep 2007
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    Geneseo, NY
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    Aging Fusions

    Hi all,
    I think my fusion is older than anyone I have met here (43 years). I have begun to experience neurological symptoms indicating degeneration at the base of my fusion. I do not have severe pain. I am 55 years old, I hope to live another 30 years but I worry about the future. Specifically, I worry that I will have severe pain, but will be considered too old for further surgery. Do others have this concern? I am active, including swimming, yoga and strengthening exercises to keep my back strong, but I have lost a lot of mobility in the past 3 years. Any thoughts?
    1966 fusion in Buffalo of 11 thoracic vertebrae, with Harrington rod

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    169
    Hi Julie, its been 43 years for me as well. I have been having problems for quite a while now. I cant help you though, sorry, as I have had facet injections, in fact a whole lot of treatment to try and help. I think you are doing the right thing by doing the swimming, yoga etc to keep your back as strong as possible.

    I honestly dont know what is going on, as on my last consultation I had lost 4cm in height over the last 6 months, I now have scoliosis of the cervical spine and the lumbar spine is worsening. There is a doctor I am going to call here in Australia, but for you I honestly wish you all the very, very best and as I said I think you are doing all you can by keeping active etc.

    Lorraine.
    Operated on in 1966, harrington rods inserted from T4 to L3, here in Australia. Fusion of the said vertebrae as well. Problems for the last 14 years with pain.
    Something I feel deeply,"Life is like money,you can spend it anyway you wish, but can only spend it once.

  3. #3
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    Sep 2003
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    Northern California
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    Hi...

    I think it would be a good idea to see a scoliosis specialist to find out what is going on. I volunteer at UCSF, and routinely see people who are 70-85 years old, who have just gone through successful scoliosis or revision surgeries. With that said, there aren't a lot of doctors willing to take on this older population.

    If possible, you're going to want to find a specialist who has a lot of experience in treating patients with prior fusions. In New York, your best bets would probably be Dr. Oheneba Boachie, Dr. Thomas Errcio, Dr. Baron Lonner, or Dr. Frank Schwab. You'll find a lot of posts about Dr. Boachie on this forum. He's really fabulous. Unfortunately, he doesn't accept insurance reimbursement, so he's likely to be more expensive than the rest.

    Good luck.

    Regards,
    Linda

  4. #4
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    Sep 2003
    Location
    NJ
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    Question old fusions-anyone's older than mine???

    My fusion, no hardware, was done in 1956. I think I beat everyone else on this forum.

    I had a successful revision 6 years ago and got my life back.
    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

  5. #5
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    Sep 2007
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    Geneseo, NY
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    Linda,
    Thank you for all you offer us here. Just before this post I visited your web site, and noticed the chart you have of scolio specialists, I think gathered from internet resources. I appreciate how much time you take to respond to so many posts, and I think doing behind-the-scenes work here. I probably will continue to try to obtain as much general and free info as I can before spending the big bucks for an out-of-area specialist. I have read the posts about Dr. Boachie, have gone online to read articles by him.

    Karen, I have seen your posts, but did not know the age of your fusion. You get the golden (years) baton!

    Lorrriane, I haven't seen your posts. My perception is that most early Harrington rod surgeries included the lumbar area, resulted in flatback syndrome, and have already been revised. Is this perception true??? I don't know, because the people who don't have problems rarely post here. My doctors in Buffalo were doing a fusion every week, and I have not seen any of those people post here. Since mine is thoracic, I have done very well until my age reached over 50 years. I have recently lost 2" of height, which the local university hospital scoliosis specialist said was due to my rod "peaking" (I think that means my curve has worsened).

    I guess I was really wondering if there is a line of thought supported by scolio revision specialists that all aged fusions will eventually need to be extended to the sacrum?
    1966 fusion in Buffalo of 11 thoracic vertebrae, with Harrington rod

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    New York City
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    Hello Julie -

    I can also recommend Dr. Cunningham who works with Dr. Boachie at Hospital for Special Surgery. He is experienced with revisions and may take insurance. Also Dr. Jean-Pierre Farcy at NYU/HJD.

    Good Luck!
    T-6 to L-4 Zeilke/CD (Anterior/Posterior) procedures done at age 39in 1988 at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital by Dr. Jean Pierre Farcy.

  7. #7
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    Mar 2008
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    New Bern, NC
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    Quote Originally Posted by JulieBW View Post
    Hi all,
    I am 55 years old, I hope to live another 30 years but I worry about the future. Specifically, I worry that I will have severe pain, but will be considered too old for further surgery. Any thoughts?
    Hi Julie,
    You are definitely not too old for further surgery as I had my surgery at age 67. I am a year and 1/2 out from surgery and doing great. My only problem is some nerve pain mostly in my right leg from having severe sciatica prior to my surgery. Just make sure you get an SRS Dr. who has lots of experience with revision surgery and get a second opinion also.
    I asked Dr. Rand how old was his oldest fusion patient and he said 76 years of age
    Last edited by loves to skate; 07-23-2009 at 11:58 AM.
    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.

  8. #8
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    Sep 2007
    Location
    Geneseo, NY
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    Hi Skater,
    Thank you for that upper age limit: something more solid than the impressions I get from the posts here. So I guess I might have 20 years to develop the severe pain that could justify further surgery. And maybe that will never happen. I know that on a rational level, but I still worry. Right now, walking is just slow and uncomfortable, not outright painful. I am more comfortable when I sit, and very comfortable when I lie down, so I sleep well. I am very grateful for this, as well as grateful for the many comfortable and active years I have had.
    1966 fusion in Buffalo of 11 thoracic vertebrae, with Harrington rod

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Houston
    Posts
    5

    aging surgery patient

    I have not been on the list for a very long time. I was interested in seeing the original message from JulieB regarding aging patients. I had a Harrington instrumentation and fusion in 1967---still have about a 30 degree curvature. I've had some trouble over the years but have remained active. I raced sailboats, skiied, danced, had 2 babies. I am now 56 and on 2 meds a day (non-narcotic) and walking slowly, a little hunched over. The pain in mainly in my hip, where the curvature pulls on the big muscle. I am in Houston and have a doc I like very much but hate to think I will have to endure this discomfort the rest of my life. I have kept my weight down and try to remain active but the last few months have been difficult---the burning is nearly always there.
    Thanks for any input.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Northern California
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    6,802
    Hi...

    There's an entire community of individuals who had Harrington rods implaned. They can be found here:

    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Flatback_Revised/

    Regards,
    Linda

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Geneseo, NY
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    Linda,
    I haven't found the yahoo flatbacks group helpful at all, since I am not a flatback and don't need surgery at this time. I am very interested in connecting with those who are simply experiencing problems of aging, in regard to base-of-fusion problems. I expect our symptoms vary widely since our fusions are for varying spinal segments. My most helpful medical visit was to a local physiatrist, because they are looking through a wider lens than just orthopedics or neurology. Thank you for offering your best thoughts.

    Debra, what has helped me most recently is walking poles. It takes me out of that bent over position and puts the forces of gravity on a different spot. I can walk much more quickly and comfortably with these poles. I bought mine from Lee Valley Tools, where I buy many gardening tools. It is a great company, good quality and customer service. Here's the link for the poles: http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page...=2,40725,45454
    1966 fusion in Buffalo of 11 thoracic vertebrae, with Harrington rod

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Houston
    Posts
    5

    Smile flatbacks and aging

    Julie,
    Thank you for the reply. I have not been diagnosed with flatback but sure don't stand up straight all the time, and do tend to lean forward. I am off of my meds this week and truly crooked. I'll look into the walking poles. Thank you!

    We can help one another, this is the only group I know of. I go again to the dr. in October and will get her to tell me which vertebrae and the technical terms, because I forget!

    Dr. Harrington did my surgery here in Houston. My curve is in my hip and the instrumentation is all the way down. My sister is 5 years younger, wore the Milwaukee brace and still had the surgery. Her curvature is a little different. Between us, there are 6 daughters and 2 granddaughters, hoping they are all okay!

    Debra

  13. #13
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    Sep 2007
    Location
    Geneseo, NY
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    Debra,
    Before buying the poles, you can experiment with sticks from outside. A cane has also been helpful, but doesn't get me as upright as the poles. And I love the fact that the poles don't make me look as old as a cane does! I look more like a hiker, less like an old lady!
    1966 fusion in Buffalo of 11 thoracic vertebrae, with Harrington rod

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    reno,nevada
    Posts
    3,557
    Ski poles, ski poles, ski poles. even if you dont ski!

    Atomic competition poles will make you look very competitive......LOL

    You can find them at garage sales for next to nothing.
    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 2007
    Location
    Geneseo, NY
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    133
    Ed,
    Yes, ski poles would also work. I like my hiking poles because they come in three segments, so they are not only height-adjustable, but also collapse into about 1 foot long to fit in a bag. When I walked with a cane, it kept falling wherever I parked it. But you can't beat the price of a garage sale find. Thanks for the thought.
    1966 fusion in Buffalo of 11 thoracic vertebrae, with Harrington rod

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