You may be wondering whether or not surgery is a good idea for older adults or seniors. The answer is yes, older adults can undergo orthopedic surgery safely. In fact, more and more seniors in the U.S. are undergoing surgical treatment for orthopedic conditions.
Advances in areas such as prosthetic technology and anesthetic equipment have made orthopedic surgery for elderly patients a routine practice. More than half of all orthopedic surgeries performed in the U.S. every year are performed on patients over the age of 65.
While age itself is not a barrier to surgery, there are specific considerations and precautions that need to be taken into account when evaluating older adults for orthopedic procedures. Orthopedic surgery in older adults requires a comprehensive assessment of the health of the patient.
In this article, we discuss some of the special considerations for seniors. Considerations range from a patient’s suitability for surgery and the physical capacity and ability to adhere to their post-operative program:
#1 Frailty Assessment
Frailty is more prevalent in older adults and plays a significant role in surgical outcomes. Screening for frailty involves assessing factors such as decreased muscle strength, impaired mobility, and increased vulnerability to stressors. Frailty assessment helps identify the level of risk and guides decision-making regarding surgical eligibility and appropriate management strategies.
#2 Comorbidity Evaluation
Older adults often have a higher burden of comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and respiratory conditions. These comorbidities can impact surgical outcomes and cause greater risks. Screening and management of these conditions are essential to reduce perioperative risks.
#3 Anesthetic Risk
The effects of anesthesia can be more pronounced in elderly patients. Careful consideration is given to choosing the appropriate anesthesia technique and monitoring the patient closely during surgery.
#4 Functional Status
Older adults may experience functional decline or limitations in activities of daily living. A comprehensive assessment helps evaluate a patient’s functional status and determine the need for additional support and certain modifications.
#5 Nutritional Assessment
Malnutrition is prevalent among older adults and can negatively affect surgical outcomes. Nutritional screening tools are used to enable early intervention for patients before orthopedic surgery. Protein, for example, is a very important nutrient for healing and recovery.
#6 Psychosocial Assessment
Older adults may face unique psychosocial challenges, such as caregiver support and cognitive impairment. Assessing these factors helps tailor post-operative care plans, including discharge planning and rehabilitation.
#7 Post-Operative Care and Rehabilitation
Older adults may require specialized post-operative care, including extended physical therapy and pain management strategies. Rehabilitation plans should be tailored to the patient’s functional abilities, which can be a little more complicated for senior patients.
#8 Medication Management
Evaluating a patient’s medication regimen is vital, as certain medications may increase the risk of bleeding, interact with anesthesia or other drugs, or have adverse effects during the perioperative stage. Adjustments or temporary discontinuation of medications may be necessary. Since older patients are more likely to take multiple medications than younger patients, this step is more important for them.
#9 Preparing the Home for Recovery
Seniors should take steps to prepare their home for recovery after surgery. They should assess their living arrangement and identify any potential obstacles or fall hazards. Installing safety equipment like grab bars and handrails can help minimize the risk of accidents. They should also consider enlisting the help of family members or caregivers to assist during the early stages of recovery.
Top Orthopedic Surgeon in Johnson City, Kingsport, & Bristol, TN
Dr. Timothy Jenkins at Watauga Orthopaedics is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and is highly experienced in the treatment of orthopedic issues that affect older adults. Dr. Jenkins specializes in the treatment of sports injuries and the use of highly advanced techniques such as arthroscopy, which can address a wide range of orthopedic conditions and help improve recovery for seniors undergoing surgery.
At Watauga Orthopaedics, we offer many patient-focused services, from pre-surgery planning to post-operative care. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Jenkins, call our office today at (423) 282-9011 or use our convenient online request form.
We look forward to providing comprehensive support on your journey toward recovery!