Spinal Deformity: Aging Population


Lead Author(s): 

Beatrice J. Edwards, MD

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

This report includes a range of deformity conditions that affect the spine. The most common spinal deformity in older adults is acquired through multiple vertebral fractures resulting in kyphosis. Vertebral fractures are often not clinically identified and may show merely as height loss. Nonetheless, vertebral fractures greatly increase the likelihood of future fractures and mortality.1,2

The most familiar spinal deformity condition is that of curvature of the spine, which includes scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis. In addition to curvature of the spine, other spinal deformity conditions include spondylolisthesis, spinal infections, complications of surgery, and spondylopathies. Of the 23.4 million healthcare visits in 2013 for spinal deformity, 13 million had a diagnosis of spondylopathy, which refers to any disease of the vertebrae or spinal column associated with compression of peripheral nerve roots and spinal cord, causing pain and stiffness.

Healthcare Visits

Two spinal deformity conditions stand out in the 65 and older cohort --  traumatic spinal fractures and curvature of the spine. People aged 65 years and older accounted for the largest share of healthcare visits in 2013 for vertebral compression fractures (49%), even though they represent only 14% of the population. This group also has a higher than expected share of healthcare visits for all spinal deformity diagnoses (32%). Of the 23.4 million visits in 2013 with a diagnosis of spinal deformity, 40% were made by people age 45 to 64 and 25% by those aged 65 and older. (Reference Table 9B.3 PDF CSV)

  • 1. Lindsay R, Silverman SL, Cooper C, et al.: Risk of new vertebral fracture in the year following a fracture. JAMA 2001;285(3):320-323.
  • 2. Browner WS, Pressman AR, Nevitt MC, Cummings SR: Mortality following fractures in older women. The study of osteoporotic fractures. Arch Intern Med 1996;156(14):1521-1525.


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