Senior Health

Seniors at High Risk for Readmission After Ambulatory Surgery

Patients 65 and older who have ambulatory surgery are much more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days than younger patients, regardless of their health before surgery according to a large national Northwestern Medicine study published in the August 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society. The likely cause, based on previous research, is difficulty understanding medication dosing and discharge instructions, as well as cognitive impairment among older patients.

A release from Northwestern reports that the study found age is an independent risk factor for ambulatory surgical complications, which was not previously known.

Over a 30-day period, seniors were 54 percent more likely to be readmitted to the hospital compared to patients younger than 65 years, the study reports, after accounting for differences in other medical problems. The problem is likely to worsen as economic pressures to reduce health care costs lead to even more complex surgeries in an ambulatory setting, the authors said.

The release quotes corresponding study author Dr. Gildasio De Oliveira Jr. as saying, “These seniors were supposed to stay out of the hospital since the procedures were performed in the ambulatory setting, but they were admitted to the hospital within 30 days. Age was the biggest factor associated with readmission and complications. It’s not because they are sicker, it’s because they are older and have trouble understanding their discharge instructions and medication dosing, which often are not clearly explained.”

De Oliveira is an assistant professor at the Center for Healthcare Studies at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

To prevent costly readmissions, seniors need clearer, more understandable discharge instructions and to be evaluated for their ability to care for themselves after surgery, said De Oliveira, who also is an assistant professor in anesthesiology at Feinberg.

The study on senior hospital readmissions examined data from 53,667 patients who underwent ambulatory surgery in academic medical centers. The authors used the 2012 National Surgical Quality Improvement Program data set.

Economic pressures to reduce health care costs have resulted in a 300 percent increase in ambulatory surgeries over the past decade. Now more than 70 percent of surgical procedures are performed in an outpatient setting, including more complex surgeries, such as hysterectomy, spine surgery and thyroid surgery. About 9 million ambulatory surgeries annually are performed on patients 65 and older.

“When patients are sent home on the same day, a lot is required of them to take care of themselves, and it’s beyond the capability of a lot of older individuals,” De Oliveira said. “They have to administer opioids and monitor themselves for emergency problems such as bleeding or infection.”


The latest for the greatest!

Get up-to-the-moment health + wellness info
  right to your inbox, plus exclusive offers!