My 78-year-old mother insists on having a neck fusion surgery. She's overweight, has high blood pressure, and is borderline diabetic. Is it really safe for her to have this kind of surgery? I can't believe the surgeon is willing to do it.
Anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF) is one of the most common surgical spine procedures in the U.S. It is the favored treatment for degenerative disc disease so common in aging adults. Results remain good-to-excellent with fewer complications than ever before.
The fusion procedure is fairly easy to perform, patients recover quickly, and studies show good results overall. To evaluate the performance of this procedure, surgeons ask: Is the procedure having the intended effect? Are the outcomes successful? Who can benefit and are there other people out there who could really use this treatment? Is it safe and effective for all age groups, both sexes (male and female), and for each diagnosis for which it was used?
Researchers keeping track of data on outcomes report that the technique has been so successful that the types of patients who can have the surgery has expanded. Better technology, improved surgical techniques. and safer anesthesia means that patients with other health problems can have this surgery.
That's compared with 15 years ago when diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease or other condition would have meant no surgery. Not only that, but it looks like better medications has gained improvements in pain control. Postoperative physical therapy has speeded up recovery and reduced the length of hospital stay.
If the surgeon has deemed the procedure necessary and safe, then it's likely that your mother is a good candidate with a low risk profile.
Satyajit Marawar, MD, et al. National Trends in Anterior Cervical Fusion Procedures. In Spine. July 1, 2010. Vol. 35. No. 15. Pp. 1454-1459.
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