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Tips for Avoiding Postoperative Confusion Among Older Patients

Dr Brian Klagges, MD

A respected presence in the Manchester, New Hampshire medical community, Dr. Brian Klagges practices at the Interventional Spine Center of Elliot Hospital. Also a partner with one of the largest anesthesiology groups in the region, Brian Klagges, MD, is active with the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).

The ASA recently issued guidelines designed to reduce the incidence of pre- and post-surgery confusion among older patients. The concern is temporary postoperative delirium, which causes issues such as confusion and disorientation, with patients not fully aware of their surroundings. More serious postoperative cognitive dysfunction involves developing difficulties in learning and concentrating, as well as potential long-term memory loss.

A first step outlined by the ASA involves having a family member or caregiver stay with the patient throughout the recovery to observe their physical and mental state. Glasses and hearing aids should be made available soon after the procedure and the patient should be placed in an environment with windows, making it easy for them to tell whether it is day or night. In cases of overnight hospital stays, it makes sense to pack and set out familiar home objects such as a calendar, clock, or family photos that will help the patient in the readjustment process.

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