View Full Version : surgery after 55?

22nd September 2004, 06:11 AM
I am 55 and have been monitoring my scoliosis since I was 13ish-especially the last 10 years. It now is 55 thoracic and 70 lumbar (depending on who measures it, it varies 5-10 degrees). It seems to be progressing less than 1 degree per year Some surgeons I have seen in the last year will do the surgery IF I WANT IT, some say it has not changed and some say I should do the surgery.now or anytime in the next 5 years or so.
I am so confused, upset and tired of fighting it with PT, and other non-surgical methods. But, I don't want the surgery. I do not have any real pain that I cannot control easily and have learned to compensate. I am not afraid of short term pain but am afraid that the recovery will take years and I may be worse off. Many of the doctors that I see are good surgeons but I feel like they just want to do the surgery because they are surgeons.
. How do you know if you really need the surgery. I am waiting to see if it continues to progress and am trying to be as healthy and physically fit as I can be.

22nd September 2004, 07:29 AM
I am not in your position, so I can't really answer for you. Before I could even begin to offer guidance, I would want to know if you're having any problems associated with it. Is it becoming more noticable? Is it causing pain, or numbness/tingling, or other indications of nerve, joint or muscular problems? Is it reducing your pulmonary function?

If you're happy with the way you look (or if surgery can't give you any cosmetic improvement), and it's not causing you pain or pulmonary problems, I don't see an urgency for surgery. But if you're having problems with it now (even minor ones), and you have been observing 1 of progression per year, you might expect those problems to magnify over time. If you think that surgery will ultimately prove inevitable, you might consider that it is easier to recover from surgery the younger you are... so putting it off could make it harder on you. But if you don't expect your symptoms to be a problem down the road, then there's no real need to do anything now.

Really, your curves seem pretty moderate to me (for an untreated adult). I don't think you'll ever have to worry about significant pulmonary complications. The real question is whether or not you'll have pain... do you have any now?

22nd September 2004, 08:12 AM
I'm a bit closer to your position. I'm 46, I just have a thoracic curve, last measured at 43 when I was 13. It''s never been properly measured since. When I had a chest X-ray a few years ago it appeared to be a little larger, but I'm sure it hasn't progressed as much as 1 per year . I've had very little real back pain (and when I have had significant pain it usually had an obvious external cause, such as liftiing a heavy object the wrong way). I've not had any pulmonary problems. As Kimberly says, if you are going to have surgery eventually, it is probably better to have it sooner rather than later, but I know that's not what you are asking.

I share your feelings that some surgeons recommend surgery because they are surgeons. Have any of them given specific reasons why you should have the surgery? Or is it more a case of "All cases over x require surgery eventually".

If you feel that your pain has not increased significantly, and that scoliosis is not restricting your life style any more than it did when you were younger, then my personal recommendation would be against surgery. But I must stress that it is just a personal view, I have no medical qualifications, and I have never met anyone older than myself, who has significant scoliosis.

22nd September 2004, 11:54 AM
I have a 120 degree thoracic and 70ish lumbar after surgery.I'm 37.
I guess in your case the surgery will be purely cosmetic as I can't imagine you're suffering any damage.I think if you don't have severe pain you won't have the motivation to do the surgery.You would get a better cosmetic improvement, be a bit taller and straighter and clothes would certainly look better.
On the down side it is a big surgical undertaking with a long recovery period.As an older patient you need to explore some questions with your doctor....how long will the fusion be?What are the risks of infection?
Will your risk of non fusion be higher because of your age?
I know a 55 yr old lady on another site who came through the surgery very well and is pleased with her outcome.For adults contemplating surgery I like the Yahoo groups called scolioadults.It's a mailing list that you join and share experiences with.
Anything we can do to help, just let us know and we'd love to offer support and friendship whatever your choice.Ivan here has never had surgery and has curves lumbar and thoracic of over 80 degrees and does very well! Take your time and think it through carefully.Good luck with your decision.

22nd September 2004, 12:35 PM
Firstly, :welcome2: :D

I'd like to throw something into the mix here, which is that although I can certainly appreciate that as you don't have severe pain, and the curve is progressing only slowly, it's not a good incentive to have such a major surgery, nevertheless I think there are some things that you should get checked out - specifically, given your age you should think about your family history to see if there are any indicators, and also get bone density testing done. If you are undergoing changes to your bone density, that could make a very significant difference to your decision as it could potentially have a large impact on both your rate of progression and the long term success of surgery.

Again, welcome to the site :-)

23rd September 2004, 05:13 PM
Hi hss, I'm 39 and have curves about 90/90. For some reason my doctors have never felt any need to operate and neither have I.
If you're not having any bad side effects then I don't see the need to operate but that's just my opinion.
I'm not in fantastic shape or anything but I don't suffer the chronic pain some people here do. I just keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best like everyone else. I'm sure other people live long lives with bad curves and never have operations. It's just the luck of the draw and so far you seem to be doing ok.