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Home E-Weekly July 5, 2016

Ask Your Elderly Patients These 3 Questions

Published: July 5, 2016

Older patients are at greater risk for post-op complications, yet they are less likely than younger patients to ask questions about surgery. A new study published in JAMA Surgery says surgeons can help solve that dilemma by engaging the elderly with these 3 questions:

  • Should they have surgery? Discuss what is likely to happen if they undergo the procedure or decide against it. Will undergoing the procedure make them feel better or live longer?
  • What should they expect if everything goes well? Touch on how their daily routines will be impacted in the months and years after surgery, how the surgery might impact other comorbidities and what at-home care they will require.
  • What should they expect if things go wrong? Openly discuss serious complications and how they might impact post-op functioning.

The study points out that the 3 questions are framed to help surgeons share their vast clinical knowledge in ways that patients understand. They also clarify treatment options and prepare patients for both the expected and unexpected outcomes of surgery.

Surgeons often ask patients if they have any questions about their scheduled procedures, and patients often respond spontaneously with logistical or technical questions about the procedure and immediate post-op care, according to the researchers. Those are important issues, they say, but don't necessarily engage patients to take ownership in their care, create realistic expectations of how they'll recover from surgery or help they decide if procedures are ultimately worth having.

Daniel Cook

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