Moderator: Dr. Mark Katlic
Summary: We have known for decades that cardiopulmonary fitness declines with age, even in elite athletes. The authors have shown that this phenomenon, admittedly associated with age, is more important than chronologic age itself in predicting risk. Thereby, they also have struck an indirect blow against “ageism,” prejudice based on chronologic age alone.
In nearly 400 patients who underwent major open hepatobiliary and sarcoma operations, anaerobic threshold, at a level of 10 ml/kg/min, proved to be the best predictor, better than chronologic age. Age became important when fitness was poor but was unimportant when fitness was good. The study also shows that CPET is safe and even elderly patients with malignancy can complete the test (96% achieved anaerobic threshold).
1. Is it practical, in your hospital or most hospitals, to administer Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test (CPET; maximal oxygen consumption; VO2max) to all elderly patients scheduled for major elective surgery? What would be the barriers to doing this?
2. Even if we discover reduced cardiopulmonary fitness preoperatively, can we improve this prior to surgery? How?
3. Some centers achieve results in the elderly equivalent to the general population, even for complex operations, while across the country and around the world age remains a risk factor. What do you think that these centers do better?
4. What practical alternatives exist to CPET for evaluating our elderly surgery patients?
Please feel free to comment on any or all of the questions above. We look forward to hearing from you, the Annals readers. This article can be accessed for free.