Background: We tested the hypothesis that cognitive impairment upon admission (CIA) and cognitive decline (CD) during hospitalization are associated with an increased risk for functional decline (FD) in older inpatients.
Methods: The Italian Group of Pharmacoepidemiology in the Elderly (Gruppo Italiano di Farmacoepidemiologia nell'Anziano, GIFA) project was a multicenter survey of 9061 older patients admitted to Italian hospitals between 1991 and 1997. CIA was defined as a Hodkinson Abbreviated Mental Test score <7 on admission. The percentage of participants who developed FD, defined as loss of the ability to perform without help one or more activities of daily living between admission and discharge, was compared in patients who did and did not have CIA, and between those who lost at least one point in Hodkinson Abbreviated Mental Test score (CD) and those who did not.
Results: Mean age was 77.4 years, and women represented 52.3% of the sample. CIA was present in 21.0% of the patients. During hospitalization, 176 patients (1.9%) experienced FD (4% of those with CIA vs 1.3% of those without CIA). In multivariate analysis, CIA was an important risk factor for FD (odds ratio 2.4; 95% confidence interval, 1.7-3.5; p <.001), independent of age, gender, comorbidity, polypharmacy, and disability on admission. CD occurred in 3.7% of the sample and was strongly associated with an increased risk for FD (odds ratio 16.0; 95% confidence interval, 10.8-23.6; p <.001).
Conclusions: Elderly patients with CIA have a higher risk for FD. New strategies should be implemented to prevent FD in patients with cognitive impairment, who account for a high percentage of older persons who are admitted to hospitals.