Study design: Selection of surgical therapy for lumbar canal stenosis in elderly patients is discussed. Decompression alone and decompression with fusion were evaluated.
Objectives: To determine the indication of decompression with fusion for lumbar spinal stenosis in elderly patients.
Summary of background data: Although there is no objection to posterior decompression, which is regarded as the first choice of surgical therapy for lumbar spinal stenosis in the elderly, it is debatable whether or not fusion should be used with decompression.
Methods: The presence or absence of instability was defined by Posner's method from preoperative plain radiographic lateral findings. Thirty-four elderly patients with lumbar canal stenosis were studied. Seventeen of the 34 patients were found to have instability. Ten of the 17 patients with spinal instability underwent decompression and instrumented fusion. The seven remaining patients with spinal instability underwent decompression alone. The 17 patients without spinal instability were treated by decompression alone. Preoperative symptoms, postoperative results, and changes in radiographic findings were compared among the three groups.
Results: The group treated by decompression and fusion showed the best results. The group treated by decompression in the presence of instability showed the worst results by the Japanese Orthopaedic Association back scores. Good results can be obtained by decompression alone only if the patients do not have instability as defined by Posner.
Conclusions: The definition of instability by Posner's method proved useful for selecting elderly patients with instability for fusion treatment. Fusion with instrumentation should be performed on elderly patients with instability after decompression.