Surgery and the Ageing


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12 May 2017

The decision to operate or not operate on an elderly frail patient can often be difficult - will the patient survive the surgery and what sort of quality of life can be anticipated?

This was one of the questions posed to surgeons attending their Annual Scientific Congress (ASC) in Adelaide this week.

These kinds of questions must always be asked pre-surgery, but difficult conversations in urgent situations with families with different beliefs and perspectives can be challenging, according to Melbourne General and Breast Surgeon Meron Pitcher, from Western Health.

Ms Pitcher said that diseases that previously significantly shortened life were now managed as chronic conditions with much improved quality of life.

"As surgeons we are seeing more elderly patients presenting for surgery, and we confront challenges in determining the benefits and risks in terms of complications and frailty," Ms Pitcher said.

The Melbourne surgeon suggested that advanced care planning may be helpful to agree on realistic goals and expectations as well as prepare for outcomes of treatment.

Ms Meron Pitcher's presentation to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) ASC explored the many considerations of surgery across the geriatric population.

Up to 1500 surgeons have been meeting at the Adelaide Convention Centre for a week of workshops, discussions, Plenaries and masterclasses across a broad range of surgical issues.

For more information about the Annual Scientific Congress please visit:

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