The objective of this study was to estimate the incidence and cumulative risk of major surgery in older persons over a 5-year period and evaluate how these estimates differ according to key demographic and geriatric characteristics.
As the population of the United States ages, there is considerable interest in ensuring safe, high-quality surgical care for older persons. Yet, valid, generalizable data on the occurrence of major surgery in the geriatric population are sparse.
We evaluated data from a prospective longitudinal study of 5,571 community-living fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries, aged 65 or older, from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) from 2011 to 2016. Major surgeries were identified through linkages with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data. Population-based incidence and cumulative risk estimates incorporated NHATS analytic sampling weights and cluster and strata variables.
The nationally-representative incidence of major surgery per 100 person-years was 8.8, with estimates of 5.2 and 3.7 for elective and non-elective surgeries. The adjusted incidence of major surgery peaked at 10.8 in persons 75–79 years, increased from 6.6 in the non-frail group to 10.3 in the frail group, and was similar by sex and dementia. The 5-year cumulative risk of major surgery was 13.8%, representing nearly 5 million unique older persons, including 12.1% in persons 85–89 years, 9.1% in those ≥90 years, 12.1% in those with frailty, and 12.4% in those with probable dementia.
Major surgery is a common event in the lives of community-living older persons, including high-risk vulnerable subgroups.