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Archive May 2019 XX, No. 5

Anesthesia Alert: Pointers to Prevent Post-op Delirium

Protect older patients from anesthesia-induced brain fog.

Lee Fleisher

Lee Fleisher, MD


CAREFUL GUIDANCE Thorough screening, patient orientation after surgery and medication management can protect seniors from post-op delirium and memory loss.

With an estimated 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, surgical facilities need to prepare for the wave of older patients headed for the OR. When it comes to anesthesia, our geriatric patients have very specific needs that differ from the rest of the patient population.

We’re still learning about the changes that happen to the aging brain, but we know older patients are at heightened risk for post-operative cognitive dysfunction, confusion and delirium. That cloudy, months-long brain fog is a very real concern, and we can do better to identify the patients at risk. Among our older patients, we hear a consistent post-operative refrain: “Something just isn’t right” or “I just don’t feel like myself.”

As ORs across the country brace for the gray tsunami, the American Society of Anesthesiologists and AARP have launched a Brain Health Initiative that’s focused on guiding patients over 65 through the phases before, during and after surgery. Here are 3 steps to make sure you’re helping your older patients through surgery and reducing their risk of post-operative delirium and cognitive dysfunction.

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