Objectives: To compare epidemiological data, etiology, and prognosis of severe community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in the intensive care unit (ICU) according to age (< or > or = 65 years) and to determine prognostic factors of CAP in older people.
Design: A retrospective (1987-1992) and prospective (1993-95) multicenter study.
Setting: Six ICUs in the north of France.
Patients: Five hundred five patients admitted to an ICU for severe CAP.
Measurements: Patient characteristics were compared with regard to age. Prognosis of CAP in older patients was studied by stepwise discriminant analysis.
Results: Two hundred seventy-eight patients (55%) were aged 65 years or older. Comparison of epidemiological data between older and younger patients revealed a higher prevalence of women (38% vs 29%), more severe underlying comorbidities (anticipated death within 5 years: 59% vs 26%), and more frequent chronic respiratory insufficiency (48% vs 33%) in the older patients. In this study group, 224 organisms were isolated from 172 patients (62%); those identified most frequently were Gram-negative bacilli (34%), S. pneumoniae (32%), and Staphylococcus sp. (19%). Compared with younger patients, no significant differences in bacteriological data were observed. However, crude and attributable mortality rates were significantly higher in the older patients (33% vs 21% and 30% vs 19%, respectively). Prognosis analysis identified four independent predictors of mortality in the older patients: initial septic shock (relative risk (RR) = 3), sepsis-related complications (RR = 4.3), hospital-acquired lower respiratory tract superinfections (RR = 2), and nonspecific pneumonia-related complications (RR = 2.8).
Conclusion: The bacterial etiology provides some approaches to empirical therapy for older patients with severe community-acquired pneumonia. In addition, the inappropriateness of withholding intensive care for reasons of age alone is emphasized.