For Older People, Surgery Poses Risks That Aren't Always Made Clear

"The decision seemed straightforward. Bob McHenry’s heart was failing, and doctors recommended two high-risk surgeries to restore blood flow. Without the procedures, McHenry, 82, would die. The surgeon at a Boston teaching hospital ticked off the possible complications. Karen McHenry, the patient’s daughter, remembers feeling there was no choice but to say “go ahead.”

It’s a scene she’s replayed in her mind hundreds of times since, with regret. On the operating table, Bob McHenry had a stroke. For several days, he was comatose. When he awoke, he couldn’t swallow or speak and had significant cognitive impairment. Vascular dementia and further physical decline followed until the elderly man’s death five years later."



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