Persons ≥ 90 years of age represent a rapidly growing subset of the population, but little data exist on their utilization of the health care system. Population-based data capabilities of the Rochester/Olmsted County Epidemiology Project were used to study the performance of surgery among persons ≥ 90 years of age for the 11-year period, 1975-1985. During this time, 224 residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota underwent 301 separate operations. The annual operation rate increased over the course of the study (trend test, p < 0.001), reaching a plateau of 89.0 per 1000 person-years. This suggests a potential for nearly 91,000 operations annually in this age group based on 1987 U.S. Census estimates. Ninety-two per cent were discharged from the hospital alive, and 5-year survival was consistent with that expected (23% vs. 17%). Increased longevity of the general population, combined with increased performance of surgery in this rapidly growing segment of the population, may have significant implications for health care planning.
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