Critical Illness Linked to Decline in Cognitive Function in Elderly

Researchers also find dementia risk higher in elderly after hospitalization for a non-critical illness

TUESDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly adults who are hospitalized for an acute or critical illness are more likely to experience cognitive decline, and the risk of developing dementia is significantly higher after hospitalization for a non-critical illness, according to research published in the Feb. 24 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

William J. Ehlenbach, M.D., from the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues analyzed the association between critical illness and cognitive function using data from 2,929 elderly individuals without dementia at baseline.

During a mean follow-up of 6.1 years, the researchers found that 1601 of patients were not hospitalized, 1287 were hospitalized for a non-critical illness, and 41 were hospitalized for a critical illness. Cognitive function, as determined by the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument, was significantly lower after hospitalization for an acute care or critical illness. The likelihood of developing dementia was significantly higher after hospitalization for a non-critical illness (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.4).

"Among a cohort of older adults without dementia at baseline, those who experienced acute care hospitalization and critical illness hospitalization had a greater likelihood of cognitive decline compared with those who had no hospitalization," Ehlenbach and colleagues conclude. "Non-critical illness hospitalization was significantly associated with the development of dementia."

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