Seniors And Anesthesia: 4 Things To Know

Being sick is a frightening situation you can’t just shake off. And when you’re suddenly scheduled for surgery to make you feel better, you feel scared and antsy. After all, there are a lot of things that may scare you during the surgery. Then there’s anesthesia.

While you may not think about getting knocked out during surgery when you’re young, you may think twice now that you’re in your senior years. Scary, right? Don’t be. Know all the things you need to know regarding anesthetics:

1. Seniors May Be At Risk When Anesthetized

Before any major surgeries, healthcare professionals will ask a few questions to senior patients. Mostly, the questions will be about their medical history and needs after the operation. As they figure out the best course of action, they (an anesthesiologist or a nurse) may also warn the patient about the things that may happen or may feel after the operation. To know more about the difference between a CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) and an anesthesiologist, go to

Suppose the senior patient has a complicated medical history or has been riddled with debilitating diseases. In that case, the doctor in charge of the operation may require the patient to get medical clearance from the patient. Usually, the clearance should be given by a specialist.

For example, if their ailment that may cause problems during the operation or hinder anesthesia is lung-related, the patient will be tasked to get medical clearance from a pulmonologist. Of course, the specialist may require the patient to undergo various diagnostic tests before they’re given medical approval.

2. Seniors May Experience Delirium After An Operation

After an operation where anesthesia was used, seniors may experience temporary confusion—often referred to as postoperative delirium. Do note that, in senior patients, there’s an average of 13.2% risk of experiencing this condition.

Senior patients may become unaware of what’s happening around them, disoriented, and even forget things after surgery. It’s also expected that they may have difficulty paying attention to anyone in the room.

Postoperative delirium doesn’t only happen after senior patients wake up. The condition may persist or come and go for a week. It may also start even a few days after the operation. The delirium may act up even if you’re ready at your home care facility.

Remember that one of the functions of general anesthesia is to let a patient’s brain stop processing information and keeping memory, which makes postoperative delirium a genuine concern for seniors. Some patients may even forget the hours they spent before the anesthesia was used.

Aside from delirium, patients may experience a few more debilitative aftereffects of surgery and anesthesia. One of them is postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD). The chances of a senior patient contracting POCD are around four out of ten. Thankfully, POCD may go away on its own—though some may completely recover two years after the operation.

3. Seniors Have A Rare Chance Of Waking Up During Surgery

Anaesthesia has come a long way. Back then, patients were given chloroform—by making the patient inhale it—for them to sleep through surgeries. Now, anesthetic is delivered through an intravenous vein (IV) bag. And the new drugs work fast. Within seconds, a senior patient can get knocked out.

However, a rare scenario can happen during an operation. Patients suddenly wake up during a procedure. Just imagine how surreal it can be to see a part of your body open up. This scenario is often referred to as intraoperative awareness.

But then again, intraoperative awareness is rare. The chance of that happening is between 0.007% and 0.91%. Nonetheless, if you’re afraid of this possibility, don’t be. You’ll be with many healthcare workers in the surgery room and your anesthetist. The anesthetist will be there to ensure you’re knocked off and monitor all your vital signs to ensure no problems with your operation, even if you suddenly wake up.

To inform you, people who often wake up even under the influence of general anesthesia tend to have heart complications and lose a lot of blood.

4. Seniors Are At High Risk Of Complications Introduced By Anesthesia

Four out of ten senior patients who’ve gone through anesthesia and surgery reported that they experienced. Aside from waking up or becoming delirium, some of the risks associated with anesthesia often involve the kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain.

And because of these risks, senior patients tend to shy away from healthcare once they experience problems with their operations or treatment.


Those are the top things you need to know about the effects of anesthesia on older adults. If you’re going under the knife, remember all the things mentioned above. Don’t be shy to clarify the information listed here to your surgeon, anesthetist, or primary care physician before you go through the surgery.

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