Erika Leck, MD, PGY 5,1, Sean D Christie, MD, FRCSC, 2,

1 Department of Surgery (Neurosurgery) Dalhousie University.
2 Vice-Chair and Director of Research Professor, Division of Neurosurgery , Department of Surgery (Neurosurgery), Healthy Populations Institute Flagship Project Co-Lead, Creating Sustainable Health Systems in a Climate Crisis, Dalhousie University.


Abstract: The global population is ageing, and with that there is a concomitant increase in spinal pain and mobility complaints, most related to degenerative changes. It is important to consider how the markers of aging and, specifically, frailty, can overlap with symptoms of spine disease. Although non-operative management should be the initial response, spine surgery in older adults is safe and should be considered as part of a holistic approach for patients with persistent neuropathic pain.
Key Words: Spine Surgery, Elderly, Older Adults, Frailty, Imaging, Spinal Degeneration.

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1. It is essential to remember that, while degeneration is inevitable, the appearance of symptoms is not and treatment decisions must be based on the clinical presentation, not the images.
2. Our ageing population will lead to an increase in the frequency of spine-related complaints.
3. It is important to consider how the markers of aging and frailty overlap with symptoms of spine disease.
4. The conservative approaches should always be pursued prior to consideration of surgical options.
5. When required, spine surgery in older patients is safe and efficacious, but should involve a healthcare team able to appropriately assess and support the patient and their loved ones.
1. Biological age does not necessarily equate to chronological age.
2. Radiological “abnormalities” become more common with age, but are frequently asymptomatic, order tests that direct care.
3. Combination, non-opioid, pharmacological strategies, with a ‘start low and go slow’ approach are preferred.
4. Tools such as the Clinical Frailty Scale can be helpful in predicting risk and clinical decision making.
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