Background: The chronic progressive course of peripheral arterial occlusive disease with its limb-threatening and life-threatening potential is associated with physical, psychological and social distress for elderly patients and their families.
Objective: To evaluate the influence of infra-inguinal bypass surgery for limb salvage, and social support, on quality of life in elderly patients (over 60 years old).
Methods: Sixty patients aged 60 years and above diagnosed with limb-threatening ischemia were evaluated using the SF-36 generic questionnaire for quality of life, and the MOS-SS questionnaire for social support. Thirty patients (group I) were evaluated in the hospital prior to reconstructive surgery and 30 postoperative patients (group II) were evaluated at home at least 6 months after infra-inguinal bypass operations. Both groups were comparable in terms of age, gender, prevalence of ischemic heart disease, diabetes, and other atherosclerosis risk factors.
Results: All quality of life parameters were higher among patients who underwent limb salvage surgery (group II) as compared to preoperative patients (group I), yet the obtained values were lower than those in the general population. Patients in the surgical intervention group had higher levels of function, lower pain levels, and higher emotional and social well-being and, in addition, were spared limb amputation. The findings also indicate that the social support dimensions (emotional support, receipt of information, affection and positive social interaction), as measured in terms of perceived availability, do not operate as one entity. Different types of social support were more beneficial along different stages of the disease.
Conclusion: Peripheral arterial occlusive disease causes severe impairment of the quality of life in elderly patients. Arterial reconstructive surgery improves the quality of life though it still remains low compared to the general population. Social support is beneficial in the treatment of these patients, and the social worker in the vascular surgery department has a key role in identifying the various needs of the patients along the path of their chronic illness.