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Open Access Research article

Quality of life and long-term outcomes of octo- and nonagenarians following acute care surgery: a cross sectional study

Sayf Gazala1, Yvonne Tul1, Adrian Wagg2, Sandy L Widder1, Rachel G Khadaroo1* and on behalf of the Acute Care and Emergency Surgery (ACES) Group

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, University of Alberta, 2D WMC, 8440-112 St NW, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2B7

2 Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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World Journal of Emergency Surgery 2013, 8:23  doi:10.1186/1749-7922-8-23

Published: 1 July 2013



While advanced age is often associated with poorer surgical outcomes, long-term age-related health status following acute care surgery is unknown. The objective of our study was to assess post-operative cognitive impairment, functional status, and quality of life in elderly patients who underwent emergency surgery.


We identified 159 octo- and nonagenarians who underwent emergency surgery between 2008 and 2010 at a single tertiary hospital. Patients were grouped into three cohorts: 1, 2, and 3 years post-operative. We conducted a survey in 2011, with octo- and nonagenarians regarding the impact of emergency surgical procedures. Consenting participants responded to four survey questionnaires: (1) Abbreviated Mental Test Score-4, (2) Barthel Index, (3) Vulnerable Elders Survey, and (4) EuroQol-5 Dimensional Scale.


Of the 159 octo- and nonagenarians, 88 (55.3%) patients were alive at the time of survey conduction, and 55 (62.5%) of the surviving patients consented to participate. At 1, 2, and 3 years post-surgery, mortality rates were 38.5%, 44.7%, and 50.0%, respectively. More patients had cognitive impairments at 3 years (33.3%) than at 1 (9.5%) and 2 years (9.1%) post-operatively. No statistical difference in the ability to carry out activities of daily living or functional decline with increasing time post-operatively. However, patients perceived a significant health decline with the greater time that passed following surgery.


Our study showed that half of the patients over the age of 80 are surviving up to 3 years post-operatively. While post-operative functional status appears to be stable across the 3 cohorts of patients, perceived health status declines over time. Understanding the long-term post-operative impact on cognitive impairment, functional status, and quality of life in elderly patients who undergo acute care surgery allows health care professionals to predict their patients’ likely post-operative needs.

Elderly; Emergency Surgery; Health Outcomes