Is Surgery the Best Option for Back Pain?

Tuesday, 09 Apr 2013 10:21 AM

By Peter Hibberd, M.D.

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Question: My mother-in-law suffers with back problems (she has spinal stenosis). She has been told she needs surgery, but she is 80 years old. Is surgery the only solution?

Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
 
Surgery for spinal stenosis is a big deal at any age, but especially at 80. Surgical management should be avoided if at all possible, so be sure you understand why surgery is being recommended. It is usually recommended only when spinal cord or nerve structure problems pose an imminent risk of permanent damage.

Ask for a second opinion, preferably from a specialist experienced with minimally invasive endoscopic surgery and laser management of spinal conditions.

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If her stenosis is severe and advancing, she may need more serious care, but not necessarily general surgery. Microsurgical techniques can spare many back patients further disability and the unnecessary extended recovery that can follow surgery.

If her condition is in the neck area, see a neurosurgeon and a spinal orthopedic specialist. If her condition is in the lower back, an orthopedic spine specialist is usually the best choice, though difficult cases may occasionally need the help of a neurosurgeon, as well.

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