Herniated Disc Surgery Isn’t Just For The Young

More than 90 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their life, and for many, that pain becomes chronic because they don’t take active steps to control the problem. As we get older, our discs naturally wear down and they become more predisposed to shifting from their natural position. When this happens, the disc can bulge or herniate, and this can cause serious problems and severe nerve pain.

However, surgery for a herniated disc isn’t just for the young injured employee or athlete. According to new research out of Norway, people over the age of 65 can experience numerous benefits from undergoing surgery to correct a herniated disc.

Herniated Discs and Seniors

When it comes to conducting surgery on elderly patients, it’s a little trickier than surgery performed on a healthy young adult. More things can go wrong during the operation, the patient is more likely to have other health issues, and elderly patients need more time to recover and generally don’t have as great of outcomes as their younger counterparts. So when evaluating an elderly patient for a non-life threatening surgery, doctors are tasked with measuring the pros and cons to see if the expected benefits outweigh the potential risks.

That’s what the recent study out of Norway sought to understand in regards to herniated disc surgery in elderly patients. For their study, researchers evaluated more than 5,500 patients who underwent herniated disc surgery at St. Olaf’s Hospital in Norway. 381 patients over the age of 65 were compared to 5,195 patients under the age of 65 who underwent the spinal surgery.

Herniated Disc Surgery Study Results

After comparing patient outcomes, researchers stumbled across some interesting and informative findings. For starters, researchers uncovered that older patients actually experienced a greater reduction in pain after surgery than younger patients. They also found that older patients had a slightly higher risk of complications (4.2% vs. 2.3%) and longer average hospital stay following the operation (2.7 days vs. 1.8 days). However, researchers noted that any extra complications the older patients may have experienced did not affect the total treatment outcome to any more extent than complications did for the younger group.

“This study shows that it is fully possible to do good surgical research on elderly patients,” said Mattis A Madsbu, a medical student who worked on the study.

So while it’s not surprising that elderly individuals faced a slightly longer hospital stay and a slightly higher rate of minor complications, the take home point is that they experienced better outcomes in terms of pain than younger patients did. Now, this is probably because the condition has been bothering them for some time, whereas younger patients are more likely to have an acute herniation, but it still speaks to the larger point that older adults with back pain can experience significant relief if they seek out professional help.

We’ve conducted numerous surgeries to address herniated discs in young and old patients, and we’re confident we can help you. You don’t need to power through the pain when a solution is only a phone call away. Contact Dr. Chang today.

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