Ever had a doctor tell you you were too old to undergo a major surgery that you needed? It happens.
An exception may prove the rule: several years ago my mother-in-law experienced the reverse—the doctor should have declined to operate on her broken hip due to a fall. Amy was 96, yet the surgery was performed.
Two days later she passed away due to complications.
Without surgery, of course, her remaining life would also have been short. The situation was so complicated that making good decisions was difficult at best. There was significant pain and suffering either way. And one can make the case that with surgery she had a chance to recover. There seems too little space here to explain fully.
I was perhaps more fortunate when, much younger than Amy, a different doctor tending to my own very bad back, doubted I could survive major back surgery. He asked for an opinion from my cardiologist whose response was an emphatic no on the matter, as to doing the major back surgery. In the end, a much less extensive procedure was done, and by necessity I still have significant back problems.
For clarity, I asked Dr. Erskine Caperton of St. Paul his view on the issue of upper age factors when doctors are recommending major surgery. ”There are more factors than the actual years to consider,” he said. “It’s a complex issue. The overall health condition of the patient is vital. What is the likely outcome for the patient if the surgery is done and if it is not done? There is pain to consider and the patient’s ability to deal with it.
“The overall health condition of the patient is vital. What is the likely outcome for the patient if the surgery is done, and what is the outcome if it is not? There is pain to consider and the patient’s ability to deal with it.”
Ginger Markham of Gull Lake, Minnesota, a retired nurse from the University of Minnesota Hospital, cardiac unit, said that doctors per se who are scheduled to perform surgeries are responsible for clearing the age matter with patients and/or their families before surgery.
A new young eye doctor, Anne S. Abel, at Hennepin County Medical Center, (HCMC) in Minneapolis, took over treatment recommendations for my left eye which was injured accidentally while I was visiting family members in out-state Minnesota on Father’s Day.
At my Monday morning visit with the specialist it was clear early on that my eye problem did not call for surgery. Nevertheless I asked Dr. Abel her view on major surgery had my situation called for it. The eye was black, swollen shut and bleeding slightly.
In response to my question, Dr. Abel’s first comment was, “We try not to let old age keep people from enjoying the benefits of surgery. Overall bodily condition is the major factor.”
If by way of a computer you have access to the internet, key in “surgery and advanced age” and read what Google and others have to say on the subject. I found it interesting. For example, Google raises caution: We older folks tolerate anesthesia poorly and our skin takes longer to heal.
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