Never too old for back surgery

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At one time, surgery was considered too risky to be an option for a lot of seniors. But, minimally invasive procedures may put more older patients back in play. (KFSN)

As we age, chronic back trouble may become a painful part of daily life. Almost twenty-five percent of all doctors' visits for low back pain are patients over the age of 65. At one time, surgery was considered too risky to be an option for a lot of seniors. But, minimally invasive procedures may put more older patients back in play.

Among the thousands of runners in the 2011 New York City marathon, Marjorie Kagan's finish was among the most impressive.

Marjorie said, "I was the oldest woman to run it for the first time. I was almost 82. I was six months short of being 82."

Marjorie started running late in life to fill the void when her husband, Harvey, passed away. With one marathon in the books, Marjorie intended to keep at it, but then-- back trouble began.

"I walk every morning with a friend, and she kept saying to me 'you're crooked, you're not walking straight,'" Marjorie explained to Ivanhoe.

Marjorie had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that was pressing on a nerve and causing leg pain. When physical therapy and injections didn't work, neurosurgeon at Weill-Cornell Medical Center, Roger Hartl, suggested a minimally invasive approach.

"We could pinpoint that one nerve that was being pinched by the scoliosis and just treat that one nerve," Doctor Hartl said.

Doctor Hartl made an inch long opening and inserted a cage to separate the spinal bone and take pressure off the nerve. Until a few years ago, surgeons would have needed to make a large incision.

"At her age, 10 years ago, she probably would not have had the operation. Nobody would have considered that," Hartl told Ivanhoe.

With minimally invasive back surgery, patients have a faster recovery, less scarring, and face fewer post-operative complications, like infection.

Marjorie's back to lacing up, but her workouts are a little less vigorous these days.

She said, "I'm never gonna run another marathon, but I can run 5ks and 10ks. I enjoy it!"

Marjorie had the minimally invasive surgery in June of last year and was released from the hospital after a one-night stay. She was on her feet and walking upon her release.
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