Improving Surgery Communication, Risk Factor Assessment for Older Adults: Susana Vacas, MD, PhD


Following the publication of a recent article outlining the association of the use of anesthesia during surgery and cognitive decline in older adults, the assistant professor of anesthesiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, spoke on the need to assess risk factors. [WATCH TIME: 5 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 5 minutes

“To be most effective, these strategies require family engagement and involvement of this interdisciplinary health care team. One example is the family and support system—if there are concerns, for example, it should be up to the health care team, the perioperative team, to refer to a social worker or [provide] any care [that] patients might need.”

The need to address and optimize potential risk factors for older patients ahead of surgery is vital, as this population may have modifiable factors that require attention from both surgeons and anesthesiologists. According to Susana Vacas, MD, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California–Los Angeles, these strategies are most effective when they involve family members as well as the health care team.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is recommended by the World Health Organization, Vacas noted, specifically managing a patient’s blood pressure and diabetes, as well as integrating physical activity into the daily routine. The need to optimize these risk factors preoperatively was emphasized, as patients who are at high risk for developing these conditions, specifically those that are over the age of 65 years, should trigger evaluation and/or optimization. 

Vacas S, Cole DJ, Cannesson M. Cognitive decline associated with anesthesia and surgery in older patients. JAMA. 2021;326(9):863-864. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.4773
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