Purpose of review
Populations across the world are getting older and requiring more surgery. Elderly patients present unique challenges to the anesthesiologist and anesthesia-care team. This review addresses some concerns when caring for an elderly patient. Specifically, we discuss postoperative cognitive decline (POCD) and postoperative delirium, perioperative beta-blockade and use of newer drugs, as well as older drugs.
POCD has emerged as a new concern for anesthesiologists and their older patients. Several recent studies indicate that POCD is common after noncardiac surgery, with an incidence approaching 30–40% at discharge, although this incidence declines at 3 months. Some data suggest that POCD imparts risk for death. However, there is conflicting evidence. With regard to beta-blocker therapy, there has been growing concern about widespread use of beta-blocker therapy in the perioperative period, especially because such therapy might increase the risk for stroke.
Elderly patients require focused diligent care. They are particularly sensitive to the many drugs that are administered in the perioperative period. Recent data suggest that POCD is a real concern, but it is unclear what, if anything, can be done to prevent this complication. Beta-blocker therapy is beneficial in select patients but its widespread use cannot be supported.