Background: Older patients, especially those older than 65 years, are accounting for an ever-increasing share of hospital costs, especially surgical procedures. Studies regarding the safety of surgery in these patients have been widespread in the past decade. Despite these efforts, there is a paucity of information regarding the safety of reconstruction following spinal surgery in older patients. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients undergoing soft-tissue reconstruction of the posterior trunk after oncologic spine surgery. Demographic, medical, and surgical variables were measured. The primary outcome variable was the development of a medical or surgical complication postoperatively. Other secondary outcomes included development of a medical complication alone, specific surgical complications (seroma, hematoma, infection, wound dehiscence, and (cerebrospinal fluid leak), unplanned reoperation, and 60-day operative mortality. Results: A priori power analysis suggested 205 cases would be needed. The study included 286 cases in 256 patients. The cohorts were similar in terms of demographic, surgical, and medical variables, though the older cohort had higher mean American Society of Anesthesiologists score (2.09 versus 1.65; P < 0.0001). We found no correlation between increasing age and increased rates of medical or surgical complications (35.9% for older patients versus 44.7% for younger patients; P = 0.31). However, mean American Society of Anesthesiologists score did correlate with complications (1.88 for patients with complications versus 1.69 for patients without; P = 0.04). Conclusions: We demonstrated no increased risk for complications among older patients. Complex soft-tissue reconstruction of the posterior trunk is safe in elderly patients undergoing oncologic spinal surgery.
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