, Volume 12, Issue 2 Supplement, pp S170-S175
Date: 09 Sep 2003

Lumbar spinal stenosis in the elderly: an overview

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Abstract

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a common condition in elderly patients and also one of the most common reasons to perform spinal surgery at an advanced age. Disc degeneration, facet degeneration and hypertrophy, and ligamentum flavum hypertrophy and calcification usually participate in the genesis of a stenotic condition in the elderly. These changes can lead to symptoms by themselves or decompensate a preexisting narrow canal. Although some lesions are more central or more lateral, this classic dichotomy is less present in the elderly patient, in whom the degenerative process usually encroaches both central and lateral pathways. Some less common causes of lumbar spinal stenosis are found in the aging subject, such as Paget's disease. However, it must be stressed that so-called stenotic images (sometimes severe) are present on imaging studies in a great number of symptom-free individuals, and that the relationship between degenerative lesions, importance of abnormal images, and complaints is still unclear. Lumbar stenosis is a very common reason for decompressive surgery and/or fusion. Various conditions can lead to a narrowing of the neural pathways and differential diagnosis with vascular troubles, also common in the elderly, can be challenging. The investigation of stenotic symptoms should be extremely careful and thorough and include a choice of technical examinations including vascular investigations. This is of utmost importance, especially if a surgical sanction is considered to avoid disappointing results.