Surgery for seniors is considered serious business by medical experts. Older surgical patients can react differently to anesthesia and the stress of undergoing surgery far differently than younger healthy adults do. Some seniors take more time to recover, are more vulnerable to infection and might experience post-surgical cognitive decline. It is essential that seniors and/or their family members discuss surgical risks and alternative options with their doctors beforehand.
As individuals age, their body systems can slow down significantly. Some seniors develop circulation problems, heart disease, endocrine disorders, bone density, and muscle mass losses or issues with mobility. All these circumstances and a number of others may make an older surgical patient recover slower than their younger counterparts. Some studies show that surgical patients over the age of sixty can take up to three to six months to regain their presurgical functioning status.
More Vulnerable to Infection
Seniors who have developed one of many autoimmune disorders are more vulnerable to getting an infection following surgery. Surgical equipment must be properly sterilized in an autoclave before each case before introducing them to the sterile surgical field. Introducing contaminants into the surgical site can lead to severe infections that may require further surgery to address. Hospitals are notorious for harboring many different types of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and strict compliance with OSHA and other governmental regulation entities is required for all types of health care facilities. The surgical operating suites must be thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated in between cases to meet even stricter cleaning guidelines. Any opening into the body, including urinary catheters, feeding tubes, IV lines and the surgical incisions themselves, put all surgical patients at a higher risk for postoperative infections with seniors facing the greatest challenges. Proper assessment for higher infection risks, appropriate use of intraoperative antibiotics and close postoperative supervision by trained medical personnel for a longer time can all decrease some of these surgical risks for seniors.
Postoperative delirium has long been known to exist in older patient populations undergoing surgical procedures. This condition typically only lasts from a few hours to a few days following surgery. However, many health care experts caution that seniors pose a higher risk of longer-lasting cognitive decline than the average healthy and younger surgical patient population groups. This cognitive decline in elderly patients can last from a week to three months during postoperative recovery, and this cognitive loss can impact memory and the function of many body systems, including the ability to eat, move, speak clearly and ambulate, among others. Usually, POCD (postoperative cognitive dysfunction) is transient in nature and will resolve with a higher level of postoperative care. However, some medical specialists believe that permanent cognitive decline can occur, especially in seniors.
Seniors and their caregivers should discuss these possible postoperative complications with their family doctor, surgeon, and other specialists prior to having surgery. These risks can often be decreased with some preventative precautions and preparations.
If you or an elderly relative is going to have surgery soon, take a look at these tips on how to prepare.
Interested in Publishing on Living Well IDEAS?
Send your query to the Publisher today!