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Seniors and surgery: new study examines survival rates

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As the number of seniors continues to grow, more and more surgical operations are being performed on this segment of the population. Johns Hopkins University reports that approximately half of all operations in this country are performed on patients 65 and older. For patients older than 80, the chance of death during the month following a surgical procedure increases by 26 percent.

Now Johns Hopkins is releasing a study conducted with the American College of Surgeons which assesses the frailty of surgical candidates and attempts to predict the likelihood of post-surgical complications, hospital stay length and need for post-operative nursing care.

The assessment is based upon five factors: shrinkage (unintentional loss of 10 or more pounds in the preceding year), decreased grip strength, exhaustion, low physical activity and decreased walking speed.

If the assessment standards were accepted throughout the industry, the number of deaths and complications could be reduced. Patients could work to improve their health before a surgery or decide the risks outweigh the anticipated benefits of surgery, said surgeon Martin Makary, the study’s lead investigator.

“The concept is that every person has a different physiologic reserve or an ability to handle stress,” explained Makary. “We don’t [now] have good means of predicting who is going to do well and who is not going to do well in surgery. This helps us in the decision-making process.”


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