Findings provide patients, family members and physicians food-for-thought when considering surgery
ROCHESTER, MINN. -- It’s not how old you are; it’s how sick you are -- at least when it comes to recovery following surgery. This is the major finding of a Mayo Clinic study of 31 men and women 100 years old or older.
"The main message of the study is that our oldest citizens can do well after surgery," says Mark Warner, M.D., a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and primary author of the study that appeared in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. "Many people believe that old people are fragile and frail and won’t tolerate surgery well. This study shows that notion to be false. Older individuals who have operable diseases or injuries should not be denied surgery because of perceived risks associated with advanced age."
Dr. Warner says that recent improvements in drugs and less-invasive surgical techniques have made surgery safer for the elderly. He also notes that, contrary to popular opinion, people who are dismissed from the hospital more quickly often do better following a procedure.
"A number of the patients in this study had lived in their homes for more than 70 years," Dr. Warner explains. "They know how many footsteps it is to the bathroom. They are secure and comfortable in their own environment -- but not in an unfamiliar hospital room. In general, we believe that the faster they get back to their daily routines, the quicker they will recover."
The researchers studied 31 men and women ages 100 to 107 who had surgery at Mayo Clinic or Olmsted Community Hospital over a 20-year period. Patients in the study had procedures ranging in complexity from total hip replacement to cataract surgery. They then compared their survival rates with people of the same age and gender who hadn’t undergone surgery. They found that the survival rate for centenarians undergoing surgery and anesthesia was comparable to that of the general population.
Note: This study was published in the August, 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Mayo Clinic physicians are currently conducting more research related to this topic.
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