Preoperative assessment in older adults: A comprehensive approach

Chandrika Kumar, Brooke Salzman, Jessica L. Colburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Surgical outcomes are significantly influenced by patients’ overall health, function, and life expectancy. A comprehensive geriatric preoperative assessment of older adults requires expanding beyond an organ-based or disease-based assessment. At a preoperative visit, it is important to establish the patient’s goals and preferences, and to determine whether the risks and benefits of surgery match these goals and preferences. These discussions should cover the possibility of resuscitation and ventilator support, prolonged rehabilitation, and loss of independence. The assessment should include evaluation of medical comorbidities, cognitive function, decision-making capacity, functional status, fall risk, frailty, nutritional status, and potentially inappropriate medication use. Problems identified in any of these key areas are associated with an increased risk of postoperative complications, institutionalization, functional decline, and, in some cases, mortality. If a patient elects to proceed with surgery, the risks should be communicated to surgical teams to allow for inpatient interventions that lower the risk of postoperative complications and functional decline, such as early mobilization and limiting medications that can cause delirium. Alcohol abuse and smoking are associated with increased rates of postoperative complications, and physicians should discuss cessation with patients before surgery. Physicians should also assess patients’ social support systems because they are a critical component of discharge planning in this population and have been shown to predict 30-day postoperative morbidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-220
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican family physician
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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