Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine have found that, on average, one in seven older adults will die within a year of a major surgery. The study, published in JAMA Surgery, aims to address two critical issues in senior healthcare: the fact that almost 40% of all surgeries in the U.S. are undergone by patients 65 and older, and the lack of detailed data about the outcomes of said procedures.
The study found that those most in danger of death following surgery were older patients with probable dementia — who perish within a year at a rate of 33% — and those with general frailty, who perish at a rate of 28%. Moreover, those requiring emergency surgeries were dead within a year at a rate of 22%. In terms of very advanced age, patients 90 or older were six times as likely to pass away as those aged 65 to 69.
“As a field, we’ve been really remiss in not understanding long-term surgical outcomes for older adults,” said Dr. Zara Cooper, a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. “What older patients want to know is, ‘What’s my life going to look like?’ But we haven’t been able to answer with data of this quality before.”
The research was based on claims data from traditional Medicare as well as survey data spanning 2011 to 2017 from a National Health and Aging Trends study. Procedures categorized as relevant to the study included surgeries for replacing broken hips, improving heart blood flow, removing gallbladders, and repairing hernias, among others.