Background: Due to improved operative techniques, myocardial preservation, and perioperative care, open heart procedures are now being performed in older and sicker patients. As a result, the quality of life has become an important issue in the decision making process.
Methods: Between January 1993 and October 1994, 604 patients above 65 years of age who underwent non-emergent open heart operations were followed prospectively over a 2-year period. The Health Status Questionnaire forms were distributed to all patients preoperatively and to hospital survivors at 3, 12, and 24 months. The questionnaire contains 36 questions and is divided into eight categories. Follow-up was 100% complete with 99.6% of questionnaires returned.
Results: Significant quality of life improvements were noted in all categories after surgery. After reaching a peak at 12 months, there were small, but significant declines in scores relating to physical health and health perception at 24 months. In contrast, measurements for mental attributes continued to increase with time. By multivariate analysis, diabetes, older age, and female gender had a relatively adverse influence on quality of life despite improvement after operation. Similarly, patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or having redo operations had lower health perception with some physical limitations. While procedure type (coronary artery bypass grafting) was associated with preoperative bodily pain, congestive heart failure symptoms were not an independent factor affecting quality of life.
Conclusions: Quality of life improves with cardiac surgical interventions in this studied age group and should not be denied even in the elderly population.