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Original article

Vol. 150 No. 3738 (2020)

Outcomes after spinal stenosis surgery by type of surgery in adults aged 60 years and older

Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2020;150:w20325



Mobility disability due to spinal stenosis is common in the senior population and often surgery is warranted for patients with severe symptoms and neurological dysfunction. However, although current clinical guidelines recommend stabilisation surgery in addition to decompression in patients with spinal stenosis and instability due to degenerative spondylolisthesis, the relationship between outcomes and the specific type of surgery have not been well studied. We therefore assessed the postoperative recovery timeline for 12 months and compared patient-reported outcomes dependent on the extent of decompression and additional stabilisation among seniors undergoing spinal stenosis surgery.


We investigated 457 patients (mean age 76.0 ± 10.7 years, 58% women) from a consecutive cohort prior to spinal stenosis surgery. Follow-up was at 3 or 6months and at 12 months postoperatively. At each visit, pain, neurological dysfunction and disability were assessed using the North American Spine Society questionnaire. Repeated-measures analysis compared outcomes by type of surgery adjusting for baseline symptoms, gender, age, number of comorbidities, centre and year of surgery.


Most improvement occurred within the first 3 to 6 months with little or no further improvement at 12 months. Over 12 months and in adjusted models, patients receiving one-segment versus multi-segment decompression experienced significantly greater reduction of pain (−49.2% vs −41.9%, p = 0.013) and neurological dysfunction (−37.1% vs −25.9%, p <0.0001), but only borderline greater reduction of disability (−32.7% vs −28.2%, p = 0.051). Moreover, reduction in pain and neurological function did not differ with or without additional stabilisation and extend of decompression. However, patients who received one-segment (−28.9%) or multi-segment (−28.3%) stabilisation experienced significantly less reduction in disability after surgery compared with those who were not stabilised (−34.1%, p <0.043).


Among senior patients undergoing spinal stenosis surgery, recovery was largely complete by 3 to 6 months after surgery and differed little by type of surgery independently of symptoms prior to surgery and other covariates. However we could document a trend toward more improvement in particularly neurological dysfunction and disability with less invasive surgery.


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