Objective: To develop and validate a model estimating the survival time of hospitalized persons aged 80 years and older.
Design: A prospective cohort study with mortality follow-up using the National Death Index.
Setting: Four teaching hospitals in the US.
Participants: Hospitalized patients enrolled between January 1993 and November 1994 in the Hospitalized Elderly Longitudinal Project (HELP). Patients were excluded if their length of hospital stay was 48 hours or less or if admitted electively for planned surgery.
Measurements: A log-normal model of survival time up to 711 days was developed with the following variables: patient demographics, disease category, nursing home residence, severity of physiologic imbalance, chart documentation of weight loss, current quality of life, exercise capacity, and functional status. We assessed whether model accuracy could be improved by including symptoms of depression or history of recent fall, serum albumin, physician's subjective estimate of prognosis, and physician and patient preferences for general approach to care.
Results: A total of 1266 patients were enrolled over a 10-month period, (median age 84.9, 61% female, 68% with one or more dependency), and 505 (40%) died during an average follow-up of more than 2 years. Important prognostic factors included the Acute Physiology Score of APACHE III collected on the third hospital day, modified Glasgow coma score, major diagnosis (ICU categories together, congestive heart failure, cancer, orthopedic, and all other), age, activities of daily living, exercise capacity, chart documentation of weight loss, and global quality of life. The Somers' Dxy for a model including these factors was 0.48 (equivalent to a receiver-operator curve (ROC) area of 0.74, suggesting good discrimination). Bootstrap estimation indicated good model validation (corrected Dxy of 0.46, ROC of 0.73). A nomogram based on this log-normal model is presented to facilitate calculation of median survival time and 10th and 90th percentile of survival time. A count of geriatric syndromes or comorbidities did not add explanatory power to the model, nor did the hospital of patient recruitment, depression, or the patient preferences for general approach to care. The physician's perception of the patient's preferences and the physician's subjective estimate of the patient's prognosis improved the estimate of survival time significantly.
Conclusions: Accurate estimation of length of life for older hospitalized persons may be calculated using a limited amount of clinical information available from the medical chart plus a brief interview with the patient or surrogate. The accuracy of this model can be improved by including measures of the physician's perception of the patient's preferences for care and the physician's subjective estimate of prognosis.