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Back surgery for my 82 year old dad???

My dad is 82 years old and seriously considering back fusion and laminectomy surgery for his L-3/L-4 after having the same surgery 8 years ago for L4/L-5. Since he did ok with that surgery, he thinks this will be the same. Unfortunately, since then he has developed Parkinson's and of course is much weaker and older. He has only had 1 cortisone injection which did very little good so he is ready to jump right in to surgery. At his age, the complications from surgery and a smooth recovery are very concerning to me as his oldest daughter and primary care giver after surgery. Am I just being over protective or is there some real merit to my fears?


  • Has he met with the surgeon yet? There are a couple thoughts here. Is it appropriate for an 82 yr old to have major surgery? Playing devils advocate, who knows if he may live to be a 110 yrs old and benefit greatly from the surgery. On the other side is the Parkinson's. Additionally, will insurance cover it? If he is covered by the ACA, he may be out of luck. The new government mandate thinks you've lived a full life at 75 and starts reducing benefits.

    I think it would be best if you pass your concerns to your dad and let him address them with the surgeon. I think you have every right to be concerned.

    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • If you are your father's medical power of attorney, you can call the surgeon yourself. I would advise your dad that the first of the series of injections usually don't last long but they build up over time. The insurance usually makes you go through injections before they will consider surgery. Is he on any pain meds?
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  • Be very concerned with him having major surgery. From personal experience with my Dad, who had heart valve surgery at 78. From a cardiac perspective the surgery was a success, HOWEVER the shock to his system caused him to suffer devastating results, he was never able to leave a rehab, nursing home setting ( had been totally independent prior) and he suffered a fatal infection 6 months after surgery. I do not mean to scare you, but especially with the Parkinson's there can be so many variables outside of the actually surgery. I would exhaust all other avenues before considering surgery. I wish him well!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,562
    The back problem is not going to be fatal. But at his age, any surgery could be fatal.

    As long as he can go along day by day and keep up with everything, then don't push the issue.

    In many socialize medical countries, they would not even consider some one that age as a candidate.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • mcjimjammmcjimjam Posts: 307
    edited 03/18/2014 - 7:21 PM
    I think anyone has reason to be scared when a loved one is considering surgery, especially when it is going to be very risky. Make sure all conservative measures have been tried. Ask his doctor about any options that may have been missed, whether the symptoms could be managed with medication rather than surgery etc.

    Be sure to get more than one opinion and try to do some research into the surgeon. What his success rates are, any patient testimonials you can find etc.

    Ultimately, if your father is of sound mind, and a surgeon is willing to operate, it will be his decision. Even when we have our loved ones best interests at heart and are deeply concerned, we must respect their choice in regards to their medical care.

    ETA: My grandfather had a laminectomy for stenosis a few years ago. He would have been in his late 70's. My grandmother refused to let him do it until the surgeon told her he would be in a wheelchair if he didn't get the operation. He recovered well and it completely fixed his back problems. He is extremely happy with it. He'd been suffering back pain for 30 years.

    On the other hand, my other grandfather died recently at 84 years old, after a hip replacement which he didn't recover from. There are two sides to it. I guess if the problem is impacting on quality of life in a big way, and there are no conservative treatment options, many would take the risk rather than live out their days in misery. What good is time when it is time you will spend suffering?
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