Trend: Very elderly patients getting more aggressive procedures

Should surgeons implant a defibrillator in a 99-year-old patient's heart? This question, which might have seemed academic years ago, is becoming increasingly relevant as patients live longer and ask for the same procedures the younger elderly receive. While some doctors argue that such procedures may not be wise, given that it's not clear that they improve the quality of life for everyone, even they admit that there are situations in which more aggressive treatments have worked. 

According to geriatricians, procedures that might never have been considered for the "late elderly" 20 years ago are becoming far more common, including hip and knee replacement, cataract surgery, pacemaker implantation and heart valve replacement. And that trend is likely to expand as the upper end of the elderly population ages, observers say. In fact, demographers estimate that there could be 1.1 million centenarians in the U.S. by 2050.

However, in the meantime, the use of such procedures and technologies on the late elderly remain the exception rather than the rule. For example, of the 55,000 patients who received a biventricular defibrillator in 2007, it's estimated that people 90 or older accounted for less than 100 of the devices used.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this article from The New York Times

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