JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Infective endocarditis in the elderly in the era of transesophageal echocardiography: clinical features and prognosis compared with younger patients.

PURPOSE: Advanced age is considered to be associated with a more severe prognosis in infective endocarditis (IE), which is relevance in view of a change in epidemiology of the disease with an increasing proportion of elderly people. We wanted to examine whether in the era of improved diagnostic sensitivity for IE by transesophageal echocardiography the clinical course in elderly persons would be still more severe than in younger patients.

PATIENTS: During the period from 1989 to 1993, 104 patients with 106 episodes of IE were treated at our university hospital. Three groups were compared: group A with 28 patients younger than 50 years, group B with 58 patients aged 50 to 70, and group C with 20 patients older than 70. Transesophageal echocardiography was performed in 78% of the patients; it was not performed in 22% of the patients with a conclusive transthoracic examination. The patients were followed up for an average of 25 months after the diagnosis.

RESULTS: No significant differences were observed among the age groups with respect to the possible source of infection, the frequency of positive blood cultures, and the type of infective organisms. Elderly patients more often had predisposing valvular conditions (eg, degenerative and calcified lesions and prosthetic valves), which decreased the sensitivity of transthoracic echocardiography to 45% as compared with 75% in group A. Transesophageal echocardiography improved the diagnostic yield by 45% in group C and by 47% in group B. Vegetations were smaller in group C and B as compared with group A, whereas other echocardiographic characteristics were similar. Fever and leukocytosis were less frequent in group C (55% and 25%, respectively) than in group A (82% and 61%, respectively). The interval between the onset of symptoms and the diagnosis of IE was similar in all groups. Elderly patients underwent surgical therapy as frequently (65%) as the other groups. The 1-year survival in group C (26%) was comparable with that in group A (22%) and group B (22%). The major determinant of survival was the occurrence of embolic complications.

CONCLUSION: Infective endocarditis in elderly patients caused less severe clinical symptoms than in young patients. The early diagnosis in elderly patients was facilitated by the high sensitivity of transesophageal echocardiography, which enabled the timely initiation of an appropriate medical and surgical therapy. This led to a clinical outcome similar to that for younger patients.

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