Study Suggests That Surgery Has Limited Use On Nursing Home Patients

elderly in hospital.jpgPerhaps nursing home patients are more frail and vulnerable than we already thought? A recent study published in the Annals of Surgery essentially concluded that nursing home patients are significantly more vulnerable to complications following a surgery than their peers living in the community.  

The study looked at sample groups of both nursing home patients and elderly people living in the community and the differences between the two groups are striking.  For example when researchers looked at surgical procedures, they discovered:

  • Nursing home patients were six times more likely to die within a month following the removal of their appendix
  • Surgery for bleeding ulcers claimed the lives of 42% of nursing home patients, while the same procedure only claimed 26% of the lives of patients living in the community
  • Colon surgery death rates were more than 50% higher for nursing home patients compared with their peers, claiming 32% of nursing home patient lives vs. 13% of their community peers.

In addition to significantly higher mortality rates, researchers similarly found that nursing home patients had more post-operative complications and required more rehabilitative treatment than similarly situated people living outside of skilled nursing facilities.  According to Dr. Emily Finlayson, the studies lead researcher, “[p]atients who survived had to undergo invasive procedures after surgery which means more time on the ventilators, more people getting feeding tubes and more time in the ICU.”

Certainly, this study demonstrates both the extreme vulnerability of the nursing home population in general and how many seemingly common ailments may need to be addressed differently by the medical community when treating this group.  Similarly, treating physicians need to be realistic about treatment option with the families of nursing home patients as their prognosis may be far more grim than that of other patients with similar procedures.


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