Post-surgical geriatric patients with four distinct characteristics are most likely to be readmitted to a hospital, University of Virginia researchers have found.

The resident risk factors are: cognitive impairment that requires another person to sign the patient’s consent form for the operation, mobility aid use, risk of falling at hospital discharge, and need for skilled home health care after going home.

People who are at least age 65 account for 43% of Americans undergoing an inpatient operation, said Florence E. Turrentine, Ph.D., who led the study. She added that such patients are more likely than younger cohorts to face postoperative complications. More than one in 10 of the elderly patients in the new study had an unexpected readmission, according to study authors.

“These study findings give [providers] information to help elderly patients prepare better for an operation and to find specific ways to prevent unplanned readmissions,” Turrentine noted.

Improved preparation might include employing ACS Strong for Surgery recommendations to boost patient readiness, she said. Pre-operation physical therapy also could reduce hospital readmissions, she noted. It might also help if the surgeon’s office called elderly at-risk patients following surgery to check on recovery progress. Full findings appear as an “article in press” on the Journal of the American College of Surgeons website.