A growing number of elderly patients (aged 70 years and older) are seen in critical care units after valve surgery or coronary artery bypass grafting. While studies show that the elderly demonstrate overall successful results after cardiac surgery, the mortality and morbidity risks are higher than in younger adults. The elderly patient is more likely to experience postoperative complications, prolonging the recovery phase. Commonly reported postoperative complications include dysrhythmias, pneumonia, cerebral vascular accidents, and infection. Elderly surgical candidates must be evaluated preoperatively to determine risk factors that may affect the critical care recovery phase. The length of stay tends to be longer in the intensive care unit, requiring nursing care that takes the aging process into consideration. The following article focuses on trends in cardiac surgery in the elderly, physiologic factors that affect outcome and recovery, and nursing interventions aimed at preventing or limiting postoperative complications

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