Tag Archives: elderly

Geriatric Week 1: How We Take Care Of Our Elders

Time for some philosophy again. A paper in Neurology released ahead of print confirms something I’m seeing more and more often. Specifically, hospitals can be bad for you, particularly if you are elderly.

The trauma population that we all see is aging with the overall population. Being older predisposes one to injuries that are more likely to require hospitalization. And unfortunately, being in the hospital can have adverse effects. I’m not just talking about the usual culprits such as medical errors or exposure to resistant bacteria.

The Chicago Health and Aging Project has been tracking a group of elders as they age, and has been making a number of interesting observations. Most recently, they have released information on a correlation between cognitive decline and hospitalization. They tracked nearly 1900 people, of whom 1335 ending up in the hospital for one reason or another (not just trauma). They found that there is a baseline rate of global cognitive decline with age (surprise!). Unfortunately, this rate of decline accelerated 2.4 times in the hospitalized group. Episodic memory scores declined 3.3 times faster, and executive function declined 1.7 times faster. And declines tended to be more pronounced in patients who had more severe illness, longer hospital stay, or advanced age.

There are some issues with the study. It is large, but it is a correlation study nonetheless. Are the effects due to something that happens in the hospital, or are they caused by something not evaluated by the study? It’s also not clear to me whether the declines noted are clinically significant in the daily lives of the people studied, or are just a number on some scale.

Bottom line: Some of the “benign” things that we do to patients in the hospital can have a big impact on their functional outcome. Always remember that they are more fragile than the young trauma patients we take care of. That extra fluid bolus, or dose of morphine, exposure to IV contrast, or noisy neighbor that keeps them from sleeping can make a real difference in how they do. Always consider that everything you do to them might kill them. Then seriously reconsider whether you really, really need to order it at all.

Reference: Cognitive decline after hospitalization in a community population of older persons. Neurology, 78(13):950-956, 2012.

Next Week: Trauma In The Elderly

All of next week, I’ll be writing about a topic that is becoming more and more important: geriatric trauma. Our population is aging, and the number of older patients being admitted to trauma centers is exploding.

Here are the topics to be covered:

  • How We Take Care Of Our Elders
  • Thoughts On Geriatric Trauma
  • Elderly Trauma And The Frailty Index
  • The Medical Orthopaedic Trauma Service
  • Falls In The Elderly: The Consequences
  • Effect Of an In-Hospital Falls Prevention Program

And please feel free to leave comments and suggest future topics!

EAST 2017 #13: An Extra Trauma Activation Tier For Geriatric Trauma

Our elderly population is growing rapidly, and the average age of the patients on the trauma service is escalating. These patients offer a number of challenges throughout their presentation to the hospital and the rest of their stay. Some trauma centers are now organizing special teams or response types to deal with the unique needs of this population. A few have adopted a separate response type when injured elderly patients present to the ED.

The group at Reading Hospital  implemented a separate trauma activation tier, “Tier 3”, driven by emergency physicians, to manage these patients. Tier 3 was designed to identify patients > 65 years of age with the potential for occult blunt injury to the head and torso. The normal activation criteria at this center would not have necessarily identified these patients. This study retrospectively looked at demographics and outcomes for two separate three year periods, one before and one after implementation of Tier 3.

Here are the factoids:

  • Geriatric volume increased significantly from 1715 to 3688 patients (!!), and more received expedited workup as either a trauma activation or Tier 3
  • There were statistically significant decreases in time to CT (102 vs 128 minutes) and ED length of stay (361 vs 432 minutes) (see my comments)
  • Mortality decreased from 8% to 5% overall, and from 19% to 11% in patients with head AIS > 3, both of which were significant
  • Regression analysis showed that implementation of the Tier 3 response was an independent predictor of improved survival

Bottom line: This poster shows results that suggest having a specific response for select elderly patients who don’t meet trauma activation criteria can be beneficial. However, the devil is in the details. Each center must develop criteria for the Tier 3 response that mesh with their own activation criteria. And the details of that response need to be clinically significantly better than the usual consult response.

Questions and comments for the authors/presenters:

  1. Be careful not to confuse statistical significance with clinical significance. Decreasing mean time to CT from 2:08 to 1:42 is not that big of a deal. The same applies to 7 hours in the ED vs 6.
  2. Please share the Tier 3 criteria and details of the ED response.
  3. Have you modified your Tier 3 criteria and/or response since inception, and if so, how and why?

Click here to go the the EAST 2017 page to see comments on other abstracts.

Related posts:

Reference: “Tier 3”: Long term experience with a novel addition to a two-tiered triage system to expedite care of geriatric trauma patients.. Poster #34, EAST 2017.

Pan Scanning for Elderly Falls?

The last abstract for the Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons that I will review deals with doing a so-called “pan-scan” for ground level falls. Apparently, patients at this center have been pan-scanned for years, and they wanted to determine if it was appropriate.

This was a retrospective trauma registry review of 9 years worth of ground level falls. Patients were divided into young (18-54 years) and old (55+ years) groups. They were included in the study if they received a pan-scan.

Here are the factoids:

  • Hospital admission rates (95%) and ICU admission rates (48%) were the same for young and old
  • ISS was a little higher in the older group (9 vs 12)
  • Here are the incidence and type of injuries detected:
Young (n=328) Old (n=257)
TBI 35% 40%
C-spine 2% 2%
Blunt Cereb-vasc inj * 20% 31%
Pneumothorax 14% 15%
Abdominal injury 4% 2%
Mortality * 3% 11%

 * = statistically significant

Bottom line: There is an ongoing argument, still, regarding pan-scan vs selective scanning. The pan-scanners argue that the increased risk (much of which is delayed or intangible) is worth the extra information. This study shows that the authors did not find much difference in injury diagnosis in young vs elderly patients, with the exception of blunt cerebrovascular injury.

Most elderly patients who fall sustain injuries to the head, spine (all of it), extremities and hips. The torso is largely spared, with the exception of ribs. In my opinion, chest CT is only for identification of aortic injury, which just can’t happen from falling over. Or even down stairs. And solid organ injury is also rare in this group.

Although the future risk from radiation in an elderly patient is probably low, the risk from the IV contrast needed to see the aorta or solid organs is significant in this group. And keep in mind the dangers of screening for a low probability diagnosis. You may find something that prompts invasive and potentially more dangerous investigations of something that may never have caused a problem!

I recommend selective scanning of the head and cervical spine (if not clinically clearable), and selective conventional imaging of any other suspicious areas. If additional detail of the thoracic and/or lumbar spine are needed, specific spine CT imaging should be used without contrast.

Related posts:

Reference: Pan-scanning for ground level falls in the elderly: really? ACS Surgical Forum, trauma abstracts, 2016.

Impact Of A Geriatric Trauma Service

I previously wrote about the impact of adding a hospitalist to the trauma service to improve care of geriatric trauma patients. Method Dallas Medical Center created a specific geriatric trauma service, which they called the G-60 service, in 2009. They published their data after one year of experience in 2012.

All patients 60 years of age and older with injuries <48 hours old were admitted to a specific hospital unit. All admitted patients were seen immediately by the trauma surgeon and a hospitalist. Other involved services included rehab, palliative care, PT and OT, pharmacy, nutrition, respiratory therapy, and social work, as needed. The hospitalist was also tasked with expedited clearance for surgical procedures.

Time-to-care goals included G-60 service activation and ED evaluation within 30 minutes, admission to the G-60 unit within 4 hours, operative procedures (if needed) within 36 hours, and discharge within 5 days if appropriate. Multidisciplinary rounds with the full complement of personnel were held twice weekly.

A total of 393 patients were admitted to the G-60 service over a period of one year. A control group of 280 patients from the year before implementation were used for comparison.

Here are the factoids:

  • Mechanism of injury was blunt 98% of the time, as expected. Most were falls, and the frequency increased from 68% to 75% after implementation of G-60.
  • ICU admission rate remained steady at about 20%
  • Significant time-to-care decreases were seen in all 4 categories. ED length of stay decreased by 2 hours, and time to OR decreased by more than half a day.
  • Hospital length to stay decreased from 7 to 5 days, and ICU LOS decreased from 5 to 3 days. Both were statistically and financially significant.
  • There were significant decreases in the incidence of complications, including UTI, renal failure, CHF, ventilator associated pneumonia, and respiratory failure.
  • There was no change in DVT or PE rates.

Bottom line: Implementation of a multidisciplinary trauma service that addresses the special problems of injured elderly patients improves outcomes, and would appear to save a lot of money. I have observed a very obvious age shift in the trauma population at my own trauma center, and I know quite a few other trauma medical directors who are seeing the same thing. We are all going to need to develop the equivalent of a G-60 service to improve outcomes and reduce the financial challenges of taking care of these patients. However, using age 60 as the threshold will miss a number of elders who might benefit. Frailty measures and common sense will need to be taken into account to make sure all appropriate patients can benefit from this type of service.

Reference: Geriatric trauma service: A one-year experience. J Trauma 72(1):119-122, 2012.