The Safe Use of Anaesthetics and Muscle Relaxants in Older Surgical Patients

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Abstract

Summary

Age greater than or equal to 75 years is not a special risk for adverse outcomes after general anaesthesia on its own but an indicator of risk. Biological or physiological age expressed by preoperative health status is much more important than chronological age.

The type of anaesthesia seems to play no, or only a minor role. It is, however, most important to reduce the dosage considerably. As a rule of thumb, the dosage should be reduced by 10 to 15% for every decade over the age of 40. In addition, patients must be monitored extensively intra- and postoperatively, ideally in an intensive care setting.

The controversy concerning regional versus general anaesthesia should be studied further. Regional anaesthesia techniques like high spinal or epidural anaesthesia that are haemodynamically effective do not reduce morbidity and mortality postoperatively but have the risk of profound hypotension. Peripheral blockades and spinal or epidural anaesthesia without additional sedation may, however, be associated with a reduced incidence of complications.

The reduced reserves of geriatric patients demand for experienced anaesthetists and surgeons as well as intense intra- and postoperative monitoring.

To secure a short recovery period, we recommend administration of short-acting drugs like propofol, midazolam, alfentanil, vecuronium, atracurium or isoflurane in appropriately reduced dosages.

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