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J Neurosurg Spine. 2011 Dec;15(6):667-74. doi: 10.3171/2011.7.SPINE10640. Epub 2011 Sep 2.

Morbidity and mortality after spinal deformity surgery in patients 75 years and older: complications and predictive factors.

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Department of Neurological Surgery, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California 90048, USA.



As the population continues to age, relatively older geriatric patients will present more frequently with complex spinal deformities that may require surgical intervention. To the authors' knowledge, no study has analyzed factors predictive of complications after major spinal deformity surgery in the very elderly (75 years and older). The authors' objective was to determine the rate of minor and major complications and predictive factors in patients 75 years of age and older who underwent major spinal deformity surgery requiring a minimum 5-level arthrodesis procedure.


Twenty-one patients who were 75 years of age or older and underwent thoracic and/or lumbar fixation and arthrodesis across 5 or more levels for spinal deformity were analyzed retrospectively. The medical and surgical records were reviewed in detail. Age, diagnosis, comorbidities, operative data, hospital data, major and minor complications, and deaths were recorded. Factors predictive of perioperative complications were identified by logistic regression analysis.


The mean patient age was 77 years old (range 75-83 years). There were 14 women and 7 men. The mean follow-up was 41.2 months (range 24-81 months). Fifteen patients (71%) had at least 1 comorbidity. A mean of 10.5 levels were fused (range 5-15 levels). Thirteen patients (62%) had at least 1 perioperative complication, and 8 (38%) had at least one major complication for a total of 17 complications. There were no perioperative deaths. Increasing age was predictive of any perioperative complication (p = 0.03). However, major complications were not predicted by age or comorbidities as a whole. In a subset analysis of comorbidities, only hypertension was predictive of a major complication (OR 10, 95% CI 1.3-78; p = 0.02). Long-term postoperative complications occurred in 11 patients (52%), and revision fusion surgery was necessary in 3 (14%).


Patients 75 years and older undergoing major spinal deformity surgery have an overall perioperative complication rate of 62%, with older age increasing the likelihood of a complication, and a long-term postoperative complication rate of 52%. Patients in this age group with a history of hypertension are 10 times more likely to incur a major perioperative complication. However, the mortality risk for these patients is not increased.

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