Head injury mortality in a geriatric population: differentiating an "edge" age group with better potential for benefit than older poor-prognosis patients

J Neurotrauma. 2007 Aug;24(8):1355-61. doi: 10.1089/neu.2005.370.


A comparison of outcomes between different modes of head-injury treatment in the elderly has important bearing on questions of cost-effectiveness and medical ethics. Here, we have examined rates of mortality in elderly head-trauma victims to determine whether it is valid to differentiate an "edge" age group of younger elderly patients, 65-74 years of age, from older elderly patients, considering possible benefit from intensive treatment and surgical intervention. We collected data from 1926 cases of head trauma and separated them into three age groups: 14-64 years, 65-74 years, and 75 years or older. We then compared these groups with respect to cause of injury, severity of injury, and whether or not treatment included either admission to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or surgical intervention. We found that road traffic accidents were the major cause of head injury in the younger age group, whereas in the elderly falls predominated. Mortality was higher in the elderly in all the head injury severity subgroups. Young subjects with a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of less than or equal to 8 tended to benefit from ICU treatment whereas patients 75 and over did not, regardless of their severity of injury. For these patients who were in the 65-74 age group, the data suggested that some benefit was likely. Patients 75 and older were significantly less likely to survive surgical intervention than younger patients. We conclude that it is valid to treat patients in the age group 65-74 years as a separate group from those patients 75 and older. Patients in this younger subset of the elderly may benefit from ICU treatment or surgical intervention. However, the patients in our older subset of elderly patients clearly did not, and they had a significantly higher risk of surgical mortality.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Injuries / etiology
  • Brain Injuries / mortality*
  • Brain Injuries / therapy*
  • Critical Care*
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Neurosurgical Procedures*
  • Treatment Outcome