Background: Surgical complications are common among older adults and are potential indicators of poorer long-term outcomes. The authors examined the effects of in-hospital complications on changes in older adults’ self-perceived cognitive function in the year after surgery. Method: The authors conducted a prospective longitudinal study with 2,155 older adults (age ≥ 65) undergoing surgery, investigating the association between self-reported, in-hospital complications after surgery and Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Applied Cognition-Abilities survey (4 items, cognitive function) at 30 days and 1 year after surgery. Surveys were scored on a continuous scale of 0–100, with higher scores representing better self-perceived cognitive functioning. Patient characteristics including demographics, type of complications, surgery type, pain, and activities of daily living were also collected. Results: Having one in-hospital complication was associated with a decrease of 1.79 points (95% confidence interval (CI): −2.78, −0.80), indicating lower self-perceived cognitive functioning at 1 year after surgery; having two or more in-hospital complications was associated with 2.82 point (95% CI: −4.50, −1.15) decrease at 1 year after surgery. Models specific to complication type indicated that respiratory [−3.04, (95% CI: −5.50, −0.57)], neural [−2.11, (95% CI: −3.97, −0.25)], and general complications [−2.39, (95% CI: −3.51, −1.28)] were associated with statistically significant decreases in cognitive function. Discussion: Older surgical patients who suffer in-hospital complications show greater decline in self-perceived cognitive function during the ensuing year. Geriatric specialists may be able to intervene in the immediate perioperative period to reduce complications and possibly mitigate cognitive decline among older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-361
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Complications
  • anesthesia
  • cognition
  • older adults
  • surgery


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