Peeking through the cracks: an assessment of the prevalence, clinical characteristics and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) of people with polypathology in a hospital setting

Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2010 Sep-Oct;51(2):185-91. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2009.10.006. Epub 2009 Nov 13.


Little is known about the prevalence of the recently defined polypathology notion in hospital populations. Patients admitted to medical wards were assessed using established criteria of polypathology. Prevalence of polypathology, interobserver reliability, clinical features, nutritional status, and HRQoL were assessed using clinical data and interview, mini-nutritional assessment (MNA), and the 12-item short-form health survey (SF-12) scales. Of a total of 812 patients studied, 196 (24%) met polypathology criteria (65% men, of mean age 71.3+/-11.6 years, mean defining chronic diseases 2.4+/-0.046, and other comorbidities 2.6+/-0.094). Interobserver reliability for the detection of cases was good (kappa=0.628). Their mean Charlson index/prescribed drugs were 3.3/6, respectively. Severe dyspnea, delirium, or active neoplasia were present in 44, 15, and 11%. A bad nutritional status/risk of malnutrition was evident in 10.3/52.6%, and correlated with the number of previous hospitalizations (p=0.041), and the presence of active neoplasia (p=0.037). Mean physical/mental summaries of HRQoL were 33.9+/-10, and 42+/-13, and correlated with a better nutritional status (p=0.011, and p=0.001, respectively). Polypathology affects one quarter of inpatients in a hospital setting, and can be easily and reliably identified. The diversity and complexity of patient needs underscore the need for continuity of care between community and hospital, crossing sub-speciality lines and institutional boundaries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Delirium / epidemiology
  • Dyspnea / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life*