Cognitive impairment is the major risk factor for development of geriatric syndromes during hospitalization: results from the GIFA study

Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2005;20(4):262-9. doi: 10.1159/000087440. Epub 2005 Aug 11.


Objective: To detect the main factors associated with the occurrence of specific geriatric syndromes (namely pressure sores, fecal incontinence, urinary incontinence and falls) in elderly patients during hospitalization.

Design: Observational prospective study.

Setting: Eighty-one community and university hospitals throughout Italy.

Participants: 13,729 patients aged 65 years and more, consecutively admitted to medical or geriatric acute wards during 20 months in the period between 1991 and 1998.

Measurements: Occurrence of pressure sores, fecal incontinence, urinary incontinence and falls during the stay in hospital.

Results: Pressure sores were already present in 3% of hospitalized subjects, fecal incontinence in 7.3%, while urinary incontinence, evaluated on a subgroup of total population (4,268 subjects), had a prevalence of 22.3%. During hospitalization (mean stay of 15 days), 74 subjects developed new pressure sores, 55 became fecal and 35 urinary incontinent, and 279 subjects had at least one episode of fall. In multivariate analyses, cognitive impairment, advanced age (85+ years), length of stay (more than 3 weeks) and severe disability were the main independent predictors of development of the four geriatric syndromes, with cognitive impairment as the most significant risk factor for all the four outcomes (OR 4.9, 95% CI 2.4-9.9 for pressure sores; OR 6.3, 95% CI 3.0-13.0 for fecal incontinence; OR 5.3, 95% CI 2.3-12.0 for urinary incontinence; OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.2-2.3 for falls).

Conclusion: Very old people have a significant increased risk of several geriatric syndromes during the stay in hospital, particularly if it is long and they are cognitively impaired. A standardized comprehensive geriatric evaluation at admission could be helpful in detecting all subjects at risk and preventing the development of hospital-acquired geriatric syndromes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cognition Disorders / complications*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Education
  • Fecal Incontinence / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Geriatrics
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pressure Ulcer / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urinary Incontinence / epidemiology