Study Finds That A Lot Of Surgeries On The Elderly May Be Unwanted!


Britian’s Lancet medical journal recently published a study finding that one out of three elderly Americans covered by Medicare underwent surgery in their last year of life, and one in five were actually in the last month of life. The lead researcher remarked that “[w]hile some of these surgeries are clearly needed and helpful to patients, probably a substantial portion are not.” In fact, regions where Medicare there is high total Medicare spending tended to have the most surgeries for elderly patients in their last year of life.

The study looked at data from more than 1.8 million beneficiaries of Medicare-the government’s health care plan for those who are 65 years or older-who died in 2008. It did find other regional differences. For example, end of life surgeries was three times greater in Indiana as opposed to Hawaii.

But also researchers also noted that decisions to perform surgery on the elderly were more likely influenced by their age, as opposed to their need or desire for such procedures. For example, thirty-eight percent of patients underwent surgery at age 65, thirty-five percent by age 80, and twenty-four percent had surgery when they were between 80 and 90.

The researchers noted that doctors should really consider carefully the benefits of surgery on elderly patients more carefully before performing procedures that may not improve their quality of life. Particularly considering the massive cost of health care, and the burden on the government already as it is, this should be carefully evaluated. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on how there were a lot of unneeded stents and other procedures being performed, and now this particularly shocks-but does not surprise me-that it is focused on the elderly.

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