Survival in end-stage dementia following acute illness

R S Morrison, A L Siu
JAMA 2000 July 5, 284 (1): 47-52

CONTEXT: Little is known about the prognosis of acutely ill patients with end-stage dementia or about the type of care that these patients receive. If their prognosis is poor, then emphasis should be placed on palliative care for these patients rather than on curative interventions.

OBJECTIVES: To examine survival for patients with end-stage dementia following hospitalization for hip fracture or pneumonia and to compare their care with that of cognitively intact older adults.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study with 6 months of follow-up.

SETTING AND PATIENTS: Patients aged 70 years or older who were hospitalized with hip fracture (cognitively intact, n=59; with end-stage dementia, n=38) or pneumonia (cognitively intact, n=39; with end-stage dementia, n=80) in a large hospital in New York, NY, between September 1, 1996, and March 1, 1998.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Mortality, treatments directed at symptoms, and application of distressing and painful procedures in cognitively intact patients vs those with end-stage dementia.

RESULTS: Six-month mortality for patients with end-stage dementia and pneumonia was 53% (95% confidence interval [CI], 41%-64%) compared with 13% (95% CI, 4%-27%) for cognitively intact patients (adjusted hazard ratio, 4.6; 95% CI, 1.8-11.8). Six-month mortality for patients with end-stage dementia and hip fracture was 55% (95% CI, 42%-75%) compared with 12% (95% CI, 5%-24%) for cognitively intact patients (adjusted hazard ratio, 5.8; 95% CI, 1.7-20.4). Patients with end-stage dementia received as many burdensome procedures as cognitively intact patients and only 8 (7%) of 118 patients with end-stage dementia had a documented decision made to forego a life-sustaining treatment other than cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Only 24% of patients with end-stage dementia and hip fracture received a standing order for analgesics.

CONCLUSIONS: In this study, patients with advanced dementia and hip fracture or pneumonia had a very poor prognosis. Given the limited life expectancy of patients with end-stage dementia following these illnesses and the burdens associated with their treatment, increased attention should be focused on efforts to enhance comfort in this patient population. JAMA. 2000;284:47-52


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