Nursing Home Residents Have Higher Surgery Risks

A study in the Annals of Surgery has found that the surgery risks are greater for elderly residents of nursing homes and they also suffer more complications after having surgery than people their age who live on their own, leading to questions about possible neglect by caregivers in nursing homes.

Researchers reviewed records from over 70,000 nursing home residents and one million non-institutionalized Medicare recipients over the age of 65. The research team focused on people who died following abdominal surgery, which included removal of the appendix, colon and gall bladder as well as surgery to treat bleeding ulcers.

The study showed that deaths following those surgeries were consistently higher for nursing home residents despite the fact that certain surgeries are considered “low-risk.”

For example, after surgery for bleeding ulcers, 42 percent of nursing home residents died compared to just 26 percent of elderly people not in nursing homes. For colon surgery the study found 32 percent for nursing home resident deaths and 13 percent for their non-nursing home counterparts. The figures for those who died within a month after appendix removal were 12 out of 100 compared to just 2 out of 100.

As for how nursing homes may influence surgical decisions for their residents, lead researcher Dr. Emily Finlayson said that medical personnel may be too aggressive recommending that nursing home residents have surgery because their frailty, advanced medical problems and the need for a substantially higher number of them requiring extra post-operation treatment results in a higher risk of death after surgery. She suggested that nursing home caregivers need to be flexible when considering surgical and other medical options for their residents to help avoid these higher rates of death associated with surgery.

One surgeon, Dr. Nader Massarweh, noted that the report’s findings need to be shared with nursing home patients and their families so they can talk about the risks of surgery versus alternate methods of treatment that do not involve surgery.

If you or a loved one has suffered due to abuse in a nursing home, contact an experienced attorney in your area to understand the options available to you.