What can you tell me about spinal stenosis?
January 31, 2005 6:15 PM   Subscribe

An elderly relative was just diagnosed with spinal stenosis. [+]

I’d appreciate anybody who has been through this sharing stories, experiences, etc. We don’t have much input into the decision making – spinal fusion surgery is likely to happen relatively soon – but we’d like to get a better idea about what we can expect.
posted by grateful to Health & Fitness (2 answers total)
Medline Plus is usually a good place to start. The best resource is your orthopedic surgeon, but you will need to be able to ask questions and understand the answers.

Orthopedic surgery is the lesser of two evils. It's a tough road, even under the best circumstances. Try to find a surgeon who can prepare your relative to make an informed decision, and who will prepare him or her for recovery with candor and clarity. Surgeons are famous for being vague.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:36 PM on January 31, 2005

My paternal grandmother (now in her early 70's) has stenosis, but I can only tell you the bare bones (ha) about her condition, as I'm not completely informed about her medical details. Her case is complicated by the fact that she has bad arthritis and notable osteroporosis and has had both hips replaced (bionic grandma!). But I think it's the stenosis that has affected her the most.

The doctors told her there was a two-part operation they could perform to insert metal rods into her spine to keep the spinal column from shifting or narrowing too much more. She had the first part of the operation several years ago, but has agreed not to go through with phase two of the operation: it's just too dangerous operating that close to the spinal cord, and they can't guarantee an improvement anyway.

Unfortunately, she is definitely physically incapacitated. When she's sitting down, she's totally fine and you'd never know anything is wrong, but when she gets up to walk--and she has been using a walker for a few years now--she is very hunched over, slow, and simply cannot stand up erect. And this is the (supposed) improvement over what would have happened without surgery. And because they aren't going to do phase two of the operation, there really isn't much hope things will improve in the future. Grandma is a real trouper, having been through all this and a bunch of other health problems too over the years, but I know she misses her mobility and freedom.

I'm sorry that I don't have better news for you. Best of luck to your relative. You're doing the right thing by trying to be informed and supportive.

(And remember to drink your milk and take calcium supplements--it can run in the family.)
posted by Asparagirl at 8:11 PM on January 31, 2005

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