More seniors are projected to need, or elect to undergo, surgery in the coming years. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, about a quarter of them (the U.S. population that’s at least 65 years old) is expected to have at least one surgical procedure in their elderly years.
Most of their surgeries may involve the need for general anesthesia, especially if the surgery is aimed at managing serious or chronic conditions, such as hip fractures, heart disease, and stroke. As a person ages, the risk of experiencing surgery complications heightens, and in major surgeries where general anesthesia is involved, the risk could be more serious. For instance, they may suffer postoperative cognitive dysfunction or POCD, where they can have memory or concentration and learning problems after the procedure.
When a senior does consult you for an elective surgery or when you prescribe a surgical treatment in any health care setting, you cannot discount that anesthesia specialists have key roles to play, including:
Educating the Patient
Patients will want an overview of what they can expect when they receive anesthesia. They may need it only right before the surgery, or it may also be needed as a pain management after their procedure. They will want to know the physical symptoms they would experience (e.g. unconsciousness, sedation), the amount of drug they will receive or the limit of how much they can receive, and the costs of the anesthesia.
Helping the Patient in Understanding the Risks
Likewise, the anesthesiologist must inform the patient and the caregiver (since they are seniors) about the risks, and how anesthesia can affect older adults differently compared to younger individuals. Their gender may also be a risk factor, according to a recent study which found that POCD is more likely to happen in senior women.
Guiding the Patient in Exploring Options
If a drug or general anesthesia itself is too risky for the patient, the doctor will prescribe more suitable alternatives for him/her (e.g. a different medicine, regional or local anesthesia instead of general anesthesia, etc.) Of course, it will depend on the patient’s condition.
Providing Quality Anesthesia Care
Most importantly, the doctor will provide excellent anesthesia care and work hand in hand with the rest of the medical team in ensuring the safety and efficient treatment of the patient.
These key roles make it essential for any health institution to work with an established anesthesia medical group, such as Medical Anesthesia Consultants, a subsidiary of Sheridan Healthcare, Inc. in Northern California. With a company of board-certified specialists in anesthesia care, you can better ensure the efficiency and excellence of the care you provide and your patients’ satisfaction in their surgery experience with your institution.
Women Vulnerable to Loss of Cognition, Brain Volume After General Anesthesia, Neurology Advisor
Anesthesia Fact Sheet, National Institute of General Medical Sciences