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Thread: Debating surgery to prevent future debility

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012

    Debating surgery to prevent future debility

    I am 64 years old, with a 70+ thoracic curvature and an entrapped nerve at about T-8. I'm very fortunate that my curvature does not create a pelvic imbalance, although the nerve flares up with increasing frequency. My biggest concern is that my spine could worsen or even--horrors!--collapse if the bone deteriorates significantly in later life. By then, surgery would be out of the question due to bone fragility. I am seriously debating surgery and have been cautioned by my local (Phoenix, AZ) surgeon that I shouldn't wait too long.

    Has anyone faced this awful dilemma? I'm currently in very little discomfort (although the nerve flare-ups are miserable and can last 2-3 months) so it's hard to imagine going through major surgery and multi-month recuperation based on a chance of future disability.

    I'd love to get input, as well as recommendations for surgeons to visit for yet another opinion.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Northern California

    It's definitely a dilemma. What does your current surgeon want to do? Before you commit, I'd encourage you to get another opinion, to see if it might be possible to do a limited fusion. If you were a teen, I'm guessing many surgeons would almost certainly fuse just a relatively small number of thoracic vertebrae. I don't know if it's possible in your situation, but I'd want to find out. If you're looking for a second opinion surgeon, I would recommend Bill Stephens or Dennis Crandall.

    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

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Thank you! Dr. Stephens is the surgeon I've been consulting for a couple of years now, after 3 other local opinions. We are monitoring annually for any further deterioration, but he is cautioning me that I can't wait indefinitely. I'm thinking of getting another opinion from one of the surgeons commonly mentioned in the forum.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Grove City, OH
    It's a tough decision - I've been putting off surgery for many years.
    I'm 60 & I have a 75* lumbar curve. My pain is manageable & I'm retired. If I'm having a rough time, I can take frequent breaks or an occasional pain pill. If I could stay like this, I wouldn't have the surgery. Has your curve progressed? Mine was 40* in 2006. I know it's time for me to have scoliosis surgery. Best of luck to you in making your decision!
    61 yrs old
    75 degree lumbar curve with thoracic kyphosis
    T3 - S1 surgery with Dr. Buchowski in St. Louis, on 10/27/14
    Working on healing in Columbus, Ohio!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Waterloo, IL
    It's definitely a tough decision. I was 60 when I had surgery and had very little pain. Standing for any length of time was an issue, but other than that, I was physically active without pain. Dr. Lenke said that I could wait a few years since I wasn't in pain, but didn't recommend that I wait too long. He has had successful surgeries with 70 year olds, but told me that the correction isn't as good and the recovery is longer. I am extremely happy that I had the surgery and no longer have to worry about my curves increasing. I am pleased with the cosmetic improvement, as well.
    I second guessed myself almost daily during my waiting period of 13 months! I knew that Dr. Lenke was not lacking for patients and would not have recommended surgery unless it was in my best interest.

    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.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Karen, thanks so much for the information, it's very helpful to hear from someone who chose surgery and got such a good result. I am leaning in that direction.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    El Centro, CA & Baja California, Mexico
    All my life (since 12) I was reluctant to have my spine touched however at 60 the constant nagging pain was getting a bit too much Fortunately, my youngest daughter got accepted into Washington Univ for her graduate studies and I visited often. At one point, 2 doctors were warning me that I would end up in a wheel chair if my back kept curving at a 1 degree/year. I looked for the top 10 scoliosis surgeon and saw one in St Louis and of course here in California.

    We went to the closest in San Diego, extremely nice doctor however recently in the practice after completing his fellowship. I decided to get a second opinion and one with a bit more experience.

    St Louis was my second choice although back to the San Francisco bay area would have been possible and desirable.

    Got an apptmt with Dr Bridwell. Looked up his qualifications, 30yrs+ of surgery under his belt including training Dr Lenke etc. Heard that Dr Lenke had long scheduled waits and I would have not been able to deal with that.

    I am so happy now although I still have random pains phases. They come and then go within a period of time and then it is the next mysterious one. But, I have not been taking Vicoden anymore. I guess I would have made a quicker recovery if I was to exercise more but then I was never very active before so I am normal to me in my life.

    After surgery, I did 6 months on the walker and carried a cane for a little while but in the past 9 months I walk independently although I do get tired easily because of the weight I put on my tiny feet.

    I am glad I did the surgery, I am happy with the results and I will be 65 next March.

    Best of luck and you will need to rely on someone for support the first phase of recovery.
    Baja California, Mexico & El Centro, Ca
    pre-surgery 75 and 89 - post ?
    Dr. Bridwell Nov 27, 2012 @Barnes Jewish @62yrs
    T11 to Sacrum Dural leak at L2 & L3

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