Researchers Found that Old People are More Likely to Experience Delirium after a Surgery


A study conducted by researchers analyzed data from 41 previous studies with a total of 9348 patients over the age of 60 who had elective surgery. They found that around 1 in 6 patients experienced symptoms like confusions, paranoia and aggression after their surgeries. It’s even more interesting to note that patients who were frail before undergoing surgery were 4 times more likely to develop symptoms of delirium.

Dr. Jennifer Watt, a geriatrician at the University of Toronto and Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital said that frailty can be understood as the way in which the human body deals with stress factors. She went on to say that that the body of an old person may find in hard to deal both with the post surgery problems and other pre-existing medical conditions.

Generally speaking, in the case of this study,  almost 19 percent of patients experienced delirium after surgery. Rates spiked for people over 80 that underwent cardiac or general surgeries. Researchers in the Journal of General Internal Medicine report that dementia, smoking and taking psychiatric medication for various conditions also increase the risk of delirium.

On the bright side, old people that receive frequent visits from close family members or friends are 31 percent less likely to experience delirium after surgery.

An interesting but concerning conclusion of this study is that people experiencing delirium are more likely to have complications after a surgery, to require longer hospital stay in order to recover, to need to be discharged to nursing homes after they get better or, in the worst case of all, die.

The fact that all these previous studies analyzed were not controlled experiments may somewhat hinder the final results. However, Dr. Elise Levinoff, a geriatrics researcher at McGill University in Montreal who did not take part in the study said that despite this the study can still help doctors look at a patient’s history of delirium before undergoing surgery. She wanted to add that the risk of delirium can be minimized by encouraging patients to move more and make sure they eat well. There is no clear cure for delirium, Levinoff went on to say, but old patients can be helped by preventing urinary track infections or pneumonia from happening, taking care of any post-operative complications that may appear or even providing with simple aids such as dentures, glasses, mobility devices or hearing aids. It seems that each small thing may have a big impact in their recovery process.

Dr. Daniel McIsaac, a public health researcher at the University of Ottawa in Canada went on to say that both the patients and their families can lower the risk of delirium after surgery by talking openly about any symptoms or factors of concern with their doctor. Looks like open communication is the key.

McIsaac went on to say that a person may seem well in their own environment, surrounded by people and places that they know. However, when put in a new place where they have little to no control over their surroundings, like a hospital, they may start to experience symptoms of delirium.


Related Posts