Background: the diagnosis and management of obstructive airway diseases (OADs) such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be challenging in older people.
Objective: to assess the clinical, functional, biological and behavioural characteristics relevant to the management of older people with OAD.
Methods: a cross-sectional study was conducted in a tertiary teaching hospital. Older people (> 55 years) (n = 100) with an OAD underwent a multidimensional assessment (MDA) involving questionnaires, clinical assessments, physiological measurements and biomarkers.
Results: the assessment identified a mean (SD) of 11.3 (2.5) clinical management issues and 3.1 (1.8) comorbid conditions per participant. Common problems were: airways hyper-responsiveness (80%); airway inflammation (74%); activity limitation (74%) and systemic inflammation (60.5%). The number and type of issues were similar irrespective of a diagnosis of asthma or COPD (P = 0.2). The degree of health status impairment correlated significantly with the number of clinical management issues detected (r = 0.59; P < 0.0001).
Conclusions: older people with OAD experience multiple clinical issues that adversely impact their health status. The number and type are similar irrespective of diagnosis. This MDA identifies significant clinical issues that may not be addressed in a diagnosis centred approach suggesting that a multidisciplinary approach is necessary when assessing and managing older people with OAD.