Context: Pneumonia causes significant mortality and morbidity among persons aged 65 years or older. However, few studies have explored trends according to age groups, which may affect intervention strategies.
Objectives: To examine trends in hospitalizations for pneumonia among persons aged 65 years or older and to compare characteristics, outcomes, and comorbid diagnoses.
Design, setting, and patients: Data from 1988 through 2002 on pneumonia and comorbid diagnoses among patients aged 65 to 74 years, 75 to 84 years, and 85 years or older from the National Hospital Discharge Survey.
Main outcome measures: Hospitalization rates by first-listed and any-listed discharge codes for pneumonia; proportions of hospitalizations reporting comorbid diagnoses for the 3 age groups (65-74 years, 75-84 years, > or =85 years).
Results: Hospitalization rates by both first-listed and any-listed discharge codes for pneumonia increased by 20% from 1988-1990 to 2000-2002 for patients aged 65 to 74 years (P = .01) and for patients aged 75 to 84 years (P<.001). Rates of hospitalization for pneumonia were 2-fold higher for patients aged 85 years or older (51 per 1000 population for first-listed discharge code of pneumonia; 95% confidence interval [CI], 46-55 per 1000 population) than among patients aged 75 to 84 years (26 per 1000 population; 95% CI, 24-28 per 1000 population), but did not significantly increase from 1988-1990 to 2000-2002. The proportion of patients aged 65 years or older diagnosed with pneumonia and a chronic cardiac disease, chronic pulmonary disease, or diabetes mellitus increased from 66% (SE, 1.0%) in 1988-1990 to 77% (SE, 0.8%) in 2000-2002. The risk of death during a hospitalization for pneumonia compared with the risk of death during a hospital stay for the 10 other most frequent causes of hospitalization was 1.5 (95% CI, 1.4-1.7) and remained constant from 1988-1990 to 2000-2002.
Conclusions: Hospitalization rates for pneumonia have increased among US adults aged 64 to 74 years and aged 75 to 84 years during the past 15 years. Among those aged 85 years or older, at least 1 in 20 patients were hospitalized each year due to pneumonia. Concomitantly, the proportion of comorbid chronic diseases has increased. Efforts to prevent pneumonia should include reducing preventable comorbid conditions and improving vaccine effectiveness and vaccination programs in elderly persons.