Surrogate consent for surgery among older adult patients

Published:September 18, 2022DOI:



      Surrogate consent for surgery is sought when a patient lacks capacity to consent for their own operation. The purpose of this study is to describe older adults who underwent surgical interventions with surrogate consent.


      A descriptive analysis was performed using data from the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program Geriatric Surgery Pilot collected from 2014 to 2018. All patients included were ≥65 years old and underwent a surgical procedure. Demographic and preoperative health characteristics were evaluated to examine differences between those with and without surrogate consent.


      In total, 51,618 patients were included in this study, and 6.6% underwent an operation with surrogate consent. Surrogate consent was more common among older patients (median age 83 vs 73, P < .001), female patients (7.7% vs 5.3%, P < .001), patients undergoing emergency as opposed to elective procedures (21.9% vs 1.6%, P < .001), patients with cognitive impairment (50.5% vs 2.4%, P < .001), and patients who were dependent on others for activities of daily living (41.9% vs 4.1%, P < .001). Nearly half of patients with a diagnosis of cognitive impairment signed their own consent.


      Surrogate consent was more common among patients who were older, female, had a higher comorbidity burden, and had preoperative disability. Nearly half of patients with documented cognitive impairment signed their own consent. These results indicate that further research is needed to understand how surgeons determine which patients require surrogate consent.
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