Objectives: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma are major causes of hospitalisation and mortality among older patients but respiratory diseases are often under- or misdiagnosed because spirometry is not extensively used at this age.
Design: we examined 715 elderly subjects with respiratory symptoms; all underwent a spirometric test and were administered the Mini Mental State Examination, Activities of Daily Living, Instrumental Activities of Daily Living and Geriatric Depression Scale questionnaires for cognitive, functional and effective evaluation. Their educational level and Body Mass Index were also taken into consideration.
Results: a total of 585 patients (81.8%) were able to perform spirometry according to ATS'94 criteria while 130 (18.2%) were unable to do it. As regards educational level, Mini Mental State Examination, Activities of Daily Living and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living scores showed a significant difference (P<0.001) between the groups of patients with high-quality spirometries and those with inadequate ones. There was no difference between the two groups in terms of age, Body Mass Index or Geriatric Depression Scale score.
Conclusions: the majority of elderly subjects can perform spirometry according to international guidelines; age itself cannot be considered a risk factor for a bad spirometric performance, but it becomes influential if it is associated with cognitive and functional impairment.