Do elderly intensive care unit patients receive less intensive care treatment and have higher mortality?

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2012 Nov;56(10):1298-305. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-6576.2012.02782.x. Epub 2012 Sep 28.


Background: The number of elderly (≥ 80 years) will increase markedly in Norway over the next 20 years, increasing the demand for health-care services, including intensive care. The aims of this study were to see if intensive care unit (ICU) resource use and survival are different for elderly ICU patients than for younger adult ICU patients.

Materials and methods: A retrospective cohort study comparing ICU patients between 50 and 79.9 years (Group I) with patients over 80 years (Group II) registered in the Norwegian Intensive Care Registry from 2006 to 2009. A subgroup analysis of 5-year age groups was performed.

Results: A total of 27,921 patients were analysed. The ICU/hospital mortalities were 14.3%/21.4% (Group I) and 19.8%/32.4% (Group II). Overall mortality increased with increasing age, and hospital mortality rate increased more than ICU mortality. The observed difference in admission categories could not explain the significant difference in median length of stay (LOS), 2.3 days (Group I) vs. 2.0 days (Group II). The elderly received less mechanical ventilatory support (40.6% vs. 56.1%) and had shorter median ventilatory support time, 0.8 days vs. 1.9 days. Median LOS dropped from around 80 years on, ventilator support time from around 65-70 years.

Conclusion: Octogenarians had shorter ICU stays, had higher overall mortality, had a shift of dying at the ward rather than in the ICU, and received less and shorter mechanical ventilatory support.

MeSH terms

  • Aged / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Critical Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration*
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data*
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Nursing / statistics & numerical data
  • ROC Curve
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival