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Seniors Face Increased Risks From Anesthesia | Debary Medical Negligence Lawyer

Seniors Face Increased Risks From Anesthesia

More than 12 percent of the U.S. population is older than 65 – and more than half of those will undergo at least one surgical procedure as senior citizens, a number that is expected to grow in the coming years.

Senior citizens face increased risks for complications during and after surgery, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These may include postoperative delirium, a condition that causes some patients to become confused and disoriented for up to a week after surgery, and postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD), which is defined as having long-term problems with loss of memory, learning and the ability to concentrate.


Your anesthesiologist can discuss these risks with you and answer any questions you may have about having surgery as a senior citizen.

Consider scheduling a consultation with a geriatric anesthesiology specialist, particularly if you are taking multiple medications. A geriatric anesthesiologist has specific experience caring for the elderly both preoperatively and postoperatively.

Some questions you may want to ask about anesthesia are:

  • At what point in the procedure will anesthesia be administered?
  • What type of anesthesia will I receive?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with the type of anesthesia I will receive?
  • How will the anesthesia be administered?
  • When you administer the anesthesia, will it hurt?
  • Who will be my anesthesia provider?
  • When can I speak with my anesthesiologist?
  • Are there any risks associated with anesthesia?
  • Will I wake up during the surgery?
  • As a senior citizen, are there any specific complications associated with anesthesia and this procedure that I should be aware of?
  • How long will the entire surgery take?
  • Are there risks to mental function with surgery anesthesia?
  • When will I wake up?
  • Will the anesthesia make me nauseated after the procedure?


You must provide your physician with a comprehensive list of allmedications you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter and herbal supplements, as some of these can affect your anesthesia and surgery. Sleeping pills, anxiety medications and alcohol withdrawal
have been shown to increase the risk of postoperative complications in the elderly.


If you are depressed, it can be helpful to see a psychiatrist and seek treatment prior to surgery. This is extremely important because depression has been tied to higher mortality rates in surgical patients. The psychiatrist, in consultation with other members of the surgical team, may also recommend minimizing the use of sedatives, especially long-acting drugs such as benzodiazepines.


Surgery can be an overwhelming experience, and family and friends can be an invaluable resource. They are especially important during the recovery period by doing such things as:

  • Ensuring your eyeglasses, hearing aid, etc. will be made available as soon as possible following the procedure
  • Placing a calendar in your room so you know what day of the week it is
  • Putting photos of your family in your room
  • Requesting a recovery room with a window, if possible, so you know if it is day or night


After a successful surgical outcome, it is easy to fall back into a daily routine and forget to watch out for post-surgical complications, which may include cognitive problems or issues with mental function. Some suggestions to minimize this are:

  • Request that your physician conduct a cognitive exam during your preoperative interview. This will serve as a baseline for your physician to evaluate your mental function after surgery.
  • Ask your caregiver or support person to monitor your physical and mental activity closely following surgery. He or she should report any troubling behavior to you or your physician. Avoid taking drugs with long-acting central nervous system effects, such as benzodiazepines, which are frequently used to treat insomnia, anxiety, seizures and muscle spasms.

For more on health and safety issues, see the library of articles by Daytona Beach medical malpractice attorney.

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