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Predicting Disability and Death After the ICU

More than half of older adults admitted to ICU die within 30 days, authors find

A growing number of older adults are surviving visits to hospital intensive care units (ICUs), but many emerge with disabilities, such as impaired walking and poor overall function. A new study from the Yale School of Medicine shows that the level of disability the year before an ICU visit can predict post-ICU disability and death.

The findings were published in the February 9 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

First author Dr. Lauren Ferrante and her colleagues evaluated 291 subjects who were admitted to an ICU over the 14+ years of the larger Precipitating Events Project (PEP) longitudinal study of adults aged 70 years and older in Greater New Haven, Conn. All of the study participants underwent monthly assessments of function, during which they were asked about their need for help to complete activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing; about instrumental activities of daily living, such as meal preparation and taking medications; and about mobility activities, such as walking a quarter mile.

The investigators found three distinct functional trajectories, or levels of disability, in the year before and after ICU admission. They determined the probability of an older person transitioning to a worse functional trajectory after an ICU admission, and also identified factors associated with death within 1 year of being admitted to the ICU.

“We calculated the probability of an older person transitioning to a worse functional trajectory in the ICU setting,” Ferrante said. “We found that more than half of older persons transition to a worse functional trajectory or die within 30 days of admission.”

The authors also found that the pre-ICU functional trajectories of mild-to-moderate and severe disability were associated with more than double and triple the risk of death within 1 year of ICU admission, respectively, compared with those with minimal disability.

Ferrante said this suggests the need for a focus on maintaining function in older adults in the ICU and after discharge, and for new rehabilitation strategies for these patients, particularly those who have transitioned to a worse functional trajectory.

“Our results also suggest that older adults with severe disability in the year before ICU admission may want to consider a palliative approach while in the ICU,” she added.

Source: Yale University; February 9, 2015.

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