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The role of the routine pre-operative chest X-ray in the elderly general surgical patient
  1. David Gwyn Seymour,
  2. Robert Pringle,
  3. James William Shaw


    In an unselected group of 233 patients aged 65 years and over undergoing non-cardiopulmonary surgery, 57·5% had some abnormality on routine pre-operative chest X-ray and 40·3% had an abnormality which was regarded as clinically significant. Of all patients, 32·2% subsequently required a postoperative chest film for diagnostic purposes, and in these cases the pre-operative X-ray was invaluable as a baseline. During the study period there were ten occasions where the discovery of an abnormality on a routine pre-operative chest film directly affected the treatment plan. Pre-operative chest radiology proved ineffective as a method of predicting postoperative respiratory complications and was of only limited effectiveness in predicting postoperative cardiac morbidity.

    It is concluded that a routine pre-operative chest X-ray should be available in all elderly surgical patients (a) as a baseline measurement and (b) to exclude unsuspected disease. The prediction of postoperative cardiac and respiratory morbidity, however, is best achieved by non-radiological means.

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