Spinal stenosis. Prevention & Medical Advice
Spinal canal stenosis: Age-related degeneration of the spine.
Spinal stenosis is not a disease when you look at the proper meaning of the word. Instead, it is a side-effect of the age-related degeneration of the spine and is unavoidable to a certain extent. Spinal stenosis is an important factor for the political economy as the average age of the population is increasing. From all the surgery carried out on the lumbar spine in patients over 65 years of age, decompression due to spinal stenosis takes the 1st place. The elderly are unable to walk as far, with the result that they are often no longer able to look after themselves and have to be placed in care homes with nursing.
Consult your physician if unsteadiness is becoming a problem.
All too often, patients and relatives accept clumsy hands, unstable gait or painfully short walking distances as the "natural" side-effects of getting older. If these symptoms increasingly affect quality of life, the patient should not remain satisfied with pacifying comments, but rather demand examination by a medical specialist. The spinal stenosis diagnosis can be confirmed with a MRI scan.
Hardly any surgical risks.
The conservative and surgical treatments currently available make effective treatment possible in the majority of cases. Patient age, the presence of risk factors for general anaesthetics and the number of segments to be treated play a lesser role. Excess weight is the only negative prognostic factor, whereby overweight patients also profit from the widening of the spinal canal, though not to the same extent as patients with normal body weight.
Prevention. How can I avoid spinal stenosis?
What precautionary measures are available to prevent spinal stenosis?
It is not possible to prevent spinal stenosis as such as it the result of age-related degeneration of the spine. However, the function of the discs can be positively affected by avoiding excess body weight, not smoking and looking after your neck and back. The healthier the discs are, the later the clinical symptoms of spinal stenosis will develop, if at all.
Spinal stenosis. Frequently asked questions & answers
Spinal stenosis usually appears in old age. What is the maximum age for surgery?
The surgical techniques used in the treatment of spinal stenosis are very gentle and do not cause major blood loss. Elderly patients can therefore undergo this procedure providing their condition is good to normal for their age. The oldest patient to be operated on for a lumbar spinal stenosis in our statistics was 96 years old. After all, more than one third of our patients are over 75 years of age.
Is there a risk of becoming paraplegic (wheelchair) from a spinal stenosis operation?
It may be easier to understand when you compare a spinal stenosis operation with a plane trip. Flights have "complications" too: delays, lost baggage and plane crashes. Based on our daily experience, we know that the frequency of these complications is inversely proportional to their level of severity. In other words, less serious complications occur more often and serious complications are more rare. Following this line of thought, the following complications are possible as a result of spinal stenosis surgery: Infection in the wound, post-operative bleeding, temporary or incomplete weakness or numbness in an arm or leg or quadriplegia/paraplegia.
The frequency of complications is also inversely proportional to their level of severity here, i.e., you are less likely to experience serious complications. Just as with the aviation business, a great amount of safety measures are carried out by trained personnel at the operating table to keep the risk of serious complications to an absolute minimum.
Does a spinal stenosis return after an operation?
Usually not. However, it is possible that the adjacent segments that were only slightly narrowed at the time of the operation will become more narrow as the years go by and that an operation will later be necessary at these levels.
Does the spine become stiff when the cervical spine discs are replaced with fixed implants?
Cervical spinal stenosis mainly appears when patients are in their 50´s. At this point in time, patients will already have a slight restriction in cervical spine mobility. If 2 discs are replaced with an artificial fixed implant, the effects on cervical spine mobility are generally not worth mentioning. Longer fusion operations cause minor stiffness when lowering the chin to the chest (cervical flexion). Turning the head to the left and the right as well as tilting the head to the side remain unaffected.
The vertebral bodies, discs and ligaments form a canal that is designed to protect the spinal cord and the nerve roots exiting it.
Diagnostics & Treatment
Spinal stenosis can be treated conservatively or surgically depending on the severity and extent of spinal canal narrowing.
These specialist clinics and hospitals have qualified physicians and therapists for the treatment of spinal stenosis and diseases of the spine.