A study of 1,000 deaths of patients over 90 found many died because they had too much intravenous fluid after the operation and suffered heart failure. Others died because operations were delayed by a shortage of staff or theatre space.
The report, Extremes of Age: National Confidential Enquiry into Perioperative Deaths [within 30 days of surgery], is based on records of 20,000 deaths over the past year submitted by surgeons and anaesthetists. The ninth in the series, it examines deaths in children and over-90s.
Surgery on children is safer than 10 years ago, the last time the Enquiry looked at it. There were no deaths after routine surgery to remove tonsils or the appendix and one after a hernia operation. Most deaths were of children and babies who were severely ill, premature or born with congenital abnormalities. The report attributes the improvement to the fact that fewer surgeons are doing the operations and so are more skilled.
One in ten patient over 90 dies after surgery; 5,000 to 10,000 operations a year are done on over-90s and the number is growing.