The global population is currently undergoing an upward shift in its age structure due to decreasing fertility rates and increasing life expectancy. As a result, clinicians worldwide will be required to manage an increasing number of spinal disorders specific to the elderly and the aging of the spine. Elderly individuals pose unique challenges to health care systems and to spinal physicians as these patients typically have an increased number of medical comorbidities, reduced bone density mass, more severe spinal degeneration and a greater propensity to falls. In anticipation of the aging of the population, we undertook this project to heighten physicians’ awareness of age-related spinal disorders, including geriatric odontoid fractures, central cord syndrome, osteoporotic compression fractures, degenerative cervical myelopathy, lumbar spinal stenosis and degenerative spinal deformity. This introductory article provides an overview of the changing demographics of the global population; discusses the age-related alterations that may occur to the spine; and summarizes the purpose and contents of this focus issue.
AOSpine: The Aging Spine is online and full-text access is free.