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.