March 27, 2024

Study: Postoperative hospital readmissions higher for older Americans

Editor's Note

Older Americans are at heightened risk for both short-term and long-term hospital readmission following major surgery, according to a study from Yale University published February 28 in Jama Network Open.  

Readmission places a major financial strain on health systems, researchers write, pointing out that the total cost in 2018 was $50 billion. According to the study, the cost was driven in part by 30-day readmissions of older adults on Medicare. 

The study focused on hospital readmission among 1,477 Americans aged 65 and older who did not live in nursing homes and had at least one major surgery between 2011 and 2018. Nearly one in eight (11.6%) were readmitted within 30 days and over one in four (27.6%) within 180 days. The risk was particularly pronounced for older adults who were frail or had dementia. Specifically, 36.9% of patients who were frail were readmitted within 180 days, and 39% of patients with dementia. In earlier studies, the research group found that older Americans were also at greater risk of dying within one year of major surgery. 

Noting that being readmitted can also have negative effects on patient outcomes—including in independence and functioning—researchers say they will seek further understanding of the factors driving the higher rates for older Americans as well as how to reduce them.

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