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Campaign advises older patients about anaesthesia issues

October 12, 2017

Campaign advises older patients about anaesthesia issues

With people aged 65 and over now making up 30 per cent of New Zealand hospital admissions, a new information campaign is advising patients that ageing can make them more sensitive to anaesthetic drugs, more likely to develop complications and infections, and they can take longer to recover from operations.

Ageing and anaesthesia is the theme for this year’s ANZCA National Anaesthesia Day, which falls on Monday October 16. The day is organised by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) and marks the first time ether anaesthetic was demonstrated publicly, in Boston, Massachusetts in 1846.

ANZCA advises that many patients aged over 70 are at high risk for problems after surgery, with 20 per cent experiencing complications within five days, 10 per cent needing to be admitted to critical care and five per cent dying within 30 days.

National Anaesthesia Day 2017 encourages patients to talk to their anaesthetist about current medications and conditions they have that may affect their anaesthetic and whether, in some cases, there may be alternatives to surgery.

Hospitals throughout New Zealand are supporting National Anaesthesia Day 2017 with foyer displays and activities aimed at informing patients and their families about ageing and anaesthesia.

The public can talk to anaesthetists at interactive displays being held at the following hospitals on Monday (October 16): Whangarei, North Shore, Auckland, Middlemore, Manukau Super Clinic, Tauranga, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Other public and private hospitals will display posters and patient information flyers.

Key questions that older patients and their friends or families should discuss with their anaesthetist before an operation include:

How do medical conditions and medications affect anaesthesia? Older patients are more likely to be taking medications, some of which may react with anaesthetic drugs, or they may have medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart, kidney or liver disease and diabetes.

Will my memory and thinking be affected by anaesthesia? The older you are, the more likely you are to suffer from post-operative confusion. It is usually temporary but it may be more obvious in patients who already have some cognitive decline before their anaesthesia.

Is an operation the best option? An operation may not be the only option and the decision not to operate may in fact reflect the best possible care in some cases.

How can I prepare for my operation? There are many things you can do such as stopping smoking, improving your fitness and making sure you eat well.

More information about ANZCA National Anaesthesia Day 2017, including images for download, can be found here.

Television quality video footage is available here to accompany news reports/interview on ageing and anaesthesia for National Anaesthesia Day. This includes vision of an older patient and his grandson talking to anaesthetist Dr Phillipa Hore about his upcoming operation.

One of Australia and New Zealand’s largest specialist medical colleges with 6400 specialist anaesthetists (Fellows) and 1500 anaesthetists in training (trainees), ANZCA is responsible for the training, examination and specialist accreditation of anaesthetists and pain medicine specialists, and for the standards of clinical practice in Australia and New Zealand.

It organises ANZCA National Anaesthesia Day annually to raise public understanding of anaesthesia and the work anaesthetists do.

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