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Older Age Not Automatic Barrier to Elective Surgery

Armen Hareyan's picture

Aging and Surgery

Are you too old for surgery?

Age need not be an automatic barrier to elective surgery, according to the February issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.

Increased life expectancy, safer forms of anesthesia and less-invasive surgical techniques have made it possible for older adults - in their 70s, 80s and beyond - to have many types of elective surgery.

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According to a growing number of studies, overall mental and physical health - not age - is a better predictor of a successful outcome after many elective procedures.

The goal of most elective surgeries is to improve and maintain physical functioning and overall quality of life. Add to this the increasing number of older Americans, and it's clear why the age is rising among women and men undergoing such procedures as hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and even coronary artery bypass surgery.

For example, from 1990 to 2002, the rate of total knee replacements for patients ages 75 to 84 more than doubled. The trend is similar for older adults and other elective surgeries.

Surgery still has risks. Complications and death related to surgery generally are higher in adults over 70. Recovery time may be longer for older adults. When considering elective surgery, ask your doctor and surgeon to help you weigh the risks and benefits.