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7 Most Common Surgeries for Older Adults

It's no secret that seniors face more health challenges than other age groups. With these challenges may come the need for surgical treatment. From joint replacements to heart procedures, surgeries are more common as we get older. Understanding these procedures can help us be better prepared for ourselves or our loved ones.

1. Joint Replacement Surgeries

Our joints face wear and tear every day. But over time, our joints can break down, causing pain and stiffness. Arthritis and serious falls can also lead to joint damage. At a certain point, surgery is the best solution to alleviate pain, improve mobility, and enhance quality of life.

During joint replacement surgery, surgeons replace the damaged joint with a prosthetic implant. Usually, implants are made of metal, plastic, or ceramic materials. The most common joint replacement surgeries include hip and knee replacements. While these surgeries are generally safe and effective, risks include

infection, blood clots, and implant loosening.

Following a joint replacement surgery, seniors may stay in the hospital for much-needed recovery time. In the weeks after surgery, they work often go to a skilled nursing facility for physical therapy and work with a physical therapist to regain strength and mobility. During recovery, seniors are at the highest risk of falling, so post-surgery support is crucial!

2. Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

Heart disease remains a leading cause of mortality among seniors. When arteries become narrowed or blocked due to plaque buildup, doctors may recommend surgery. Coronary artery bypass surgery creates new pathways for blood flow to bypass blocked arteries. As a result, it can restore proper circulation to the heart.

Coronary artery bypass surgery is a major surgical intervention that requires careful preoperative assessment and postoperative management. Seniors undergoing this operation should be aware of potential risks such as bleeding, infection, stroke, and heart rhythm disturbances. Cardiac rehabilitation is essential for optimizing recovery and reducing the risk of future cardiovascular events.

3. Cataract Surgery

Cataracts are a common type of age-related eye condition. They cause clouding of the eye's lens, leading to vision impairment. Cataract surgery is one of the most performed procedures among seniors globally.

During this outpatient procedure, an ophthalmologist removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial lens implant. Seniors can go home the same day and often have minimal side effects.

Cataract surgery is typically considered safe with minimal discomfort and a short recovery period.

However, seniors should be mindful of potential complications such as infection and inflammation. Following surgery, seniors may experience improved vision long-term and a reduced dependence on glasses.

4. Gallbladder Surgery

Gallbladder issues, such as gallstones and inflammation, are common among seniors. When these conditions cause significant pain, discomfort, or complications like gallbladder attacks, surgery may be necessary. Cholecystectomy, or surgery to remove the gallbladder, is the standard treatment for gallbladder-related problems.

Today, gallbladder removal is often a laparoscopic surgery, which involves several small incisions instead of a single large incision. This minimally invasive approach boasts shorter hospital stays and faster recovery times. It's no wonder this is the preferred surgery method for patients!

While gallbladder surgery is generally safe, risks include infection, bile duct injury, and digestive disturbances post-surgery. Following gallbladder removal, seniors may need to adjust their diet to manage bile and ease digestion, particularly when eating fatty foods.

5. Prostate Surgery

Prostate issues, including prostate cancer, become more prevalent with age. Surgery may be the best treatment for older men experiencing urinary symptoms or prostate cancer. Prostate surgery helps alleviate urinary obstruction, remove cancerous tissue, or manage prostate-related symptoms.

Common prostate surgeries include the following:

  • Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)

  • Radical prostatectomy

  • Robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy

Seniors considering prostate surgery should discuss the potential risks and benefits with their healthcare provider, including urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and urinary tract infections. Recovery time for prostate surgery depends on the type of surgery and the condition.

6. Back Surgery

Back pain tends to get worse as we get older. It can stem from degenerative conditions such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs, or vertebral fractures. When treatments like physical therapy and pain medication fail to provide relief, spinal surgery may be the best option.

Spinal surgeries vary depending on the specific condition and severity of symptoms. Common procedures include the following:

  1. Laminectomy: This surgery involves removing a portion of the vertebral bone (lamina) to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.

  2. Discectomy: In this procedure, the surgeon removes part of a herniated disc that is pressing on a nerve root.

  3. Spinal Fusion: Fusion surgery helps stabilize the spine by fusing 2 or more vertebrae together.

  4. Artificial Disc Replacement: Instead of fusing vertebrae, this procedure involves replacing a damaged disc with an artificial implant.

Seniors considering spinal surgery should thoroughly discuss options with their doctor. There is a high risk of complications during and after surgery. Risks may include infection, nerve damage, and failed back surgery syndrome. Rehabilitation following spinal surgery is crucial for optimizing outcomes and promoting recovery. Physical therapy can help strengthen the surrounding muscles, improve flexibility, and prevent future back problems.

7. Hernia Repair Surgery

Hernias are the protrusion of abdominal organs through weakened muscle or tissue, commonly affecting seniors. Hernia repair surgery aims to reinforce the weakened area and return organs to their proper position. This surgery may also be laparoscopic, depending on the size and location of the hernia.

While hernia repair surgery is generally safe, seniors should watch for infection, recurrence, and chronic

pain. Following surgery, seniors may need to limit physical activity and avoid heavy lifting to facilitate proper healing.


Surgical interventions often play a crucial role in managing various health conditions. Understanding the most common surgeries is essential for seniors and their family members to make the best decisions.

While surgical procedures offer the promise of improved health and quality of life, be aware of the potential risks. Consulting with healthcare professionals, adhering to preoperative and postoperative guidelines, and actively participating in rehabilitation are essential steps in the surgical journey for seniors.

If you or a loved one has an upcoming surgery, consider including Mitchell Hollingsworth Nursing & Rehabilitation in your post-operation plan. Our professional caregivers can help with companionship, medication reminders, transportation, and physical therapy exercises. Reach out to us today!




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