Physicians shifting their views on surgery for the very elderly

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Even though some doctors view aggressive treatment of thevery elderly as unnecessary, the number of late-life surgeries is on the rise,according to a recent news analysis.

Geriatricians across the country say that jointreplacement, heart valve replacement and cataract surgeries among those overthe age of 75-procedures that were rarely performed 20 years ago-are becomingincreasingly commonplace, according to an article in the New York Times onFriday. And while some physicians say the surgeries are unnecessary, arguingthat the patients are too old and will die soon anyway, more and more defendthe practice. They say the goal of these procedures is to increase longevityand improve quality of life, regardless of age.

The Times article highlighted the increased acceptance ofsurgery for the very elderly, citing examples of 80-year-olds undergoing heartsurgery and continuing to live healthy lives well into their 90s and beyond.Also noted is the coincident rise in the number of centenarians. Since 2000,the number of Americans aged 100 or older has risen from just over 50,000 tomore than 90,000 this year. Some projections show that number could rise toover 1 million by 2050.