Joan Rivers’ Death Highlights Precautions for Surgery

GREAT NECK, NY – After comedic icon Joan Rivers’ death on Thursday, many are thinking about the risks and precautions for seniors before they have a medical procedure. A New York geriatrician says physicians and families must take into account many factors before a procedure is performed.

“Prior to undertaking any procedure – a minor one or a major one – it is very important for the physician care team to sit down with the patient and the family and explore together our goals,” says Gisele Wolf-Klein, MD, director of geriatric education for the North Shore-LIJ Health System. “What are you hoping to achieve from that procedure? What if something does happen – would you still have undergone the procedure? Are you quite sure you want to do the procedure at this time?”

Before her patients go into surgery, Dr. Wolf-Klein evaluates the patient’s comprehensive medical history and completes a geriatric assessment. She looks at how the patient’s heart, lungs, kidneys and brain are performing.

“During an elective procedure, we want the patient to feel at his or her best,” Dr. Wolf-Klein says.

Some questions Dr. Wolf-Klein says the care team, family and patient should consider are:

• Are there truly benefits to undertaking this procedure?
• Are there newer procedures that don’t require very aggressive interventions?
• Has everything been explored from a conservative management (including pain management and pharmacologic treatments) standpoint?

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