As we get older, our health tends to decline. As a result, many elderly people find themselves needing surgery. Whether it is joint replacement, heart surgery, or something else, surgery is a major event. Many older patients know they are at higher risk for complications than younger people are, but it can be helpful to understand just what that means. What makes elderly people “higher risks”?

In our last blog, we took some time to define what “elderly” actually is. We also looked into the ways that lifestyle can age you quickly or slowly. In today’s blog, we want to dive deeper into the factors that affect just how much risk is involved for each patient.

Understanding the Risks of Surgery for the Elderly

Predicting Risk

The example above is pretty easy for the layman to understand. Doctors and surgeons have taken it a step further. After the health community realized that the number of someone’s age isn’t a dependable factor when determining risk, studies were done to figure out how profound an impact lifestyle and other factors can have on someone’s ability to handle surgery (and the recovery afterward). Here is a basic breakdown:

Factors that double risk:

  • Age of 75 or older
  • Severe chest pain (angina) before surgery
  • Female (especially risky in an open heart bypass)

Factors that triple risk: 

  • Kidney troubles
  • More than 97 minutes of heart-lung bypass during surgery
  • Irregular heartbeat (heart arrhythmia)

Factors that quadruple risk: 

  • Inability to manage daily activities alone (patients who cannot manage their own daily activities have more difficult recoveries and won’t fight as hard for independence, which is a key part of recovering well)
  • Cancer
  • Dementia (this condition prevents patients from making good decisions and navigating recovery successfully)
  • Malnutrition
  • Low albumin levels (low levels of this important protein usually indicate undernourishment)
  • Short mid-arm circumference (this indicates frailty, undernourishment, and low muscle mass)
  • Delirium (even the shortest episode of confusion can set recovery way back)

Surgery should always be the last option when it comes to treatment, and the list above makes it pretty clear why. Physical therapy, diet changes, activity improvements, medications, and other options should be exhausted first (unless it is an emergency). However, if you find yourself among the thousands of seniors who need surgery, one of the best things you can do is invest in a good recovery.

Turn to Justice Healthcare Group

Surgery takes place over the span of a few hours, but recovery can take months upon months. The more you invest in recovery, the shorter it will last. In order to do this, you need to be honest. Whether you have a loved one going into surgery and you’re telling yourself you have the capability to help them through recovery, or you’re the one headed to the operation table and hoping to save money by making a go at recovery on your own, take the time to honestly evaluate your situation. Solo recovery is worthless if you run into complications and end up needing to return to the hospital. Many times, it is far cheaper to pay for in-home care.

Justice Healthcare Group is here to save you money by bringing world-class health care into the comfort of your home. As you travel the ups and downs of the road to recovery, you can depend on our home health aide team to smooth the way by anticipating and solving complications before they happen. Whether you need wound care, catheter assistance, or a companion to remind you to do your exercises and cheer you on, Justice Healthcare Group is your answer in Texas. Learn more about what we can do and invest in the most important part of your healthcare process: recovery.