Older adults who received an interdisciplinary intervention before surgery had fewer complications and were able to leave the hospital after a shorter stay, according to findings from a case-control study of nearly 400 patients.

Data from previous studies suggest that preoperative assessment by geriatric experts can improve outcomes for the elderly, who are more likely than are younger patients to develop preventable postoperative complications, and “this evidence supports the formulation of a different approach to preoperative assessment and postoperative care for this population,” wrote Shelley R. McDonald, DO, of Duke University, Durham, N.C., and colleagues.

In a study published online in JAMA Surgery, the researchers compared data from 183 adults older than 65 years who underwent elective abdominal surgeries at a single center after the introduction of a quality improvement program with 143 age-matched controls who underwent surgeries, but were not enrolled in the program.

The intervention, known as the Perioperative Optimization of Senior Health (POSH), was described as “a quality improvement initiative with prospective data collection.” Patients in a geriatrics clinic within an academic center were selected for the study if they were at high risk for complications linked to elective abdominal surgery. High risk was defined as older than 85 years of age, or older than 65 years of age with conditions including cognitive impairment, recent weight loss, multiple comorbidities, and polypharmacy ( JAMA Surg. 2018 Jan 3. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2017.5513 ).

The POSH intervention patients received preoperative evaluation from a team including a geriatrician, geriatric resource nurse, social worker, program administrator, and nurse practitioner from the preoperative anesthesia testing clinic. Patients and families were advised on risk management and care optimization involving cognition, comorbidities, medications, mobility, functional status, nutrition, hydration, pain, and advanced care planning.

Patients in the POSH group were on average older, had more comorbidities, and were more likely to be smokers. But despite these disadvantaging characteristics, they still had better outcomes in several important variables than did those in the control group.

The POSH group had significantly shorter hospital stays, compared with controls (4 days vs. 6 days), and significantly lower all-cause readmission rates at both 7 days (2.8% vs. 9.9%) and 30 days (7.8% vs. 18.3%). The significance persisted whether the surgeries were laparoscopic or open.

The overall complication rate was lower in the POSH group, compared with the controls, but fell short of statistical significance (44.8% vs. 58.7%, P = .01). However, rates of specific complications were significantly lower in the POSH group, compared with controls, including postoperative cardiogenic or hypovolemic shock (2.2% vs. 8.4%), bleeding, either during or after surgery (6.1% vs. 15.4%), and postoperative ileus (4.9% vs. 20.3%).

“Delirium was identified in POSH patients at higher rates than in the control group, which is not unexpected because higher postoperative delirium rates are known to be identified with increased screening,” the researchers noted. “Collaborative care allows for increasing the recognition of geriatric syndromes like delirium, more focus on symptom management, and proactively anticipating complications,” they said.

The study results were limited by several factors including a long enrollment period for the POSH patients, and potential changes in surgical protocols, the researchers said. However, the findings support the need for further research and more refined analysis to identify the most beneficial aspects of care, and to support better clinical decision making about the timing of interventions and the type of patient who could benefit, they noted.

The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose. The John A. Hartford Foundation Center of Excellence National Program Award provided salary and database support.

SOURCE: McDonald S et al. JAMA Surg. 2018 Jan 3. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2017.5513.


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