anesthesia

  1. Seniors are routinely given too much anesthesia

    Surgery is traumatic enough at any age. But once you get up there in years, even a minor operation can be tough to recover from -- especially when you're given an overdose of anesthesia.

    And sadly, this happens all the time.

    In fact, two-thirds of all seniors get too much anesthesia during surgery, according to a new analysis that also finds the median dose of the anesthetic propofol given to seniors is nearly 20 percent higher than the highest dose they should have received.

    This isn't a simple matter of giving patients a little extra to make sure they're unconscious. It's a dangerous practice that can complicate the surgery and turn recovery into a nightmare.

    In this case, the researchers found that seniors given overdoses of anesthesia were more likely to suffer hypotension, or low blood pressure, right after the anesthesia kicks in.

    It didn't increase the death rate, and because of that the researchers seem to think this might not be that big a deal.

    But it is a big deal -- because there are other factors to consider here besides the death rate, like recovery times and complications, and unfortunately the study didn't look at any of those.

    Any operation in seniors also comes with a risk of cognitive problems -- including a dementia-like condition called postoperative cognitive dysfunction, or POCD. And seniors who are put under are more likely to experience it.

    The condition can last for days, weeks, or even months -- and seniors discharged from the hospital with POCD actually have a higher death risk.

    Anesthesia can also cause or worsen delirium, a growing problem in hospitals that often leads to a downward spiral as doctors give these seniors powerful antipsychotic drugs that can actually make the condition worse.

    That's why it's absolutely essential that seniors only get anesthesia when they need it -- and, when they do, at the lowest possible dose.

    If you or someone you love is going in for surgery, be sure to have a few words with the doctor beforehand about anesthesia -- and make sure he listens.

    In addition, I recommend detoxifying nutrients such as glutathione and milk thistle extract to help the brain recover from anesthesia. Acupuncture can also be helpful.

  2. The real secret to saving your eyes

    At some point in the next month, the feds are expected to approve a new drug to help treat macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in seniors.

    And if the $2,000-a-pop price tag doesn't cause your eyes to pop right out of your head, maybe this will: The drug, called Eylea, is injected directly into the eyeball.

    YOUCH!

    Sure, it's done with some anesthesia -- but there's the potential for serious pain once it wears off, along with the possibility of increased pressure in the eyeball, and hemorrhaging in the white.

    Might be a great look for Halloween... but probably not ideal for the other 364 days of the year.

    The cost and side effects are right in line with the other major treatment for macular degeneration, a drug called Lucentis. The only difference is that Lucentis is injected monthly, while Eylea can be done every other month.

    But what if you didn't have to deal with the needles, side effects, cost or -- more importantly -- the macular degeneration itself?

    It might be a lot easier than you think -- and it starts with eating a little more seafood.

    Dutch researchers examined data on 2,167 volunteers aged 55 or older and found that those with certain gene variations linked to macular degeneration were able to lower their risk by boosting their intake of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.

    One variation, CFH, can boost the risk of macular degeneration by 11 times -- but the researchers found that some seniors were able to beat those odds by getting higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA as well as zinc, beta-carotene, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

    Another gene variation, called LOC387715S, is known to increase the risk of macular degeneration by 15 times -- but researchers say seniors who had higher levels of zinc, EPA and DHA were more likely to avoid the disease than those who had lower levels.

    The best sources of EPA and DHA, of course, are the fatty fish that should be a steady part of your diet anyway. But zinc's a little tougher to come by: Oysters are loaded with it, but a steady shellfish diet can get pricey.

    Add a supplement instead -- especially if you already know you may be predisposed to macular degeneration.

    P.S. For more on the connection between fish oil and eye health, read "Fish is 'see' food." And for a promising but yet-unproven treatment for macular degeneration, read "Flowers for your eyes."

  3. Leeches in the emergency room

    You might not think of bloodsuckers as a staple of the modern operating room... but some of the nation's best surgeons now keep them alongside the most common tools in modern medicine.

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