Epidemiology and outcome of older patients presenting with dyspnoea to emergency departments

Age Ageing. 2021 Jan 8;50(1):252-257. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afaa121.


Objectives: To describe the epidemiology and outcomes of non-traumatic dyspnoea in patients aged 75 years or older presenting to emergency departments (EDs) in the Asia-Pacific region.

Methods: A substudy of a prospective interrupted time series cohort study conducted at three time points in EDs in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia of patients presenting to the ED with dyspnoea as a main symptom. Data were collected over three 72-h periods and included demographics, co-morbidities, mode of arrival, usual medications, ED investigations and treatment, ED diagnosis and disposition, and outcome. The primary outcomes of interest are the epidemiology and outcome of patients aged 75 years or older presenting to the ED with dyspnoea.

Results: 1097 patients were included. Older patients with dyspnoea made up 1.8% [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.7-1.9%] of ED presentations. The most common diagnoses were heart failure (25.3%), lower respiratory tract infection (25.2%) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (17.6%). Hospital ward admission was required for 82.6% (95% CI 80.2-84.7%), with 2.5% (95% CI 1.7-3.6%) requiring intensive care unit (ICU) admission. In-hospital mortality was 7.9% (95% CI 6.3-9.7%). Median length of stay was 5 days (interquartile range 2-8 days).

Conclusion: Older patients with dyspnoea make up a significant proportion of ED case load, and have a high admission rate and significant mortality. Exacerbations or worsening of pre-existing chronic disease account for a large proportion of cases which may be amenable to improved chronic disease management.

Keywords: dyspnoea; emergency department; epidemiology; older people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dyspnea* / diagnosis
  • Dyspnea* / epidemiology
  • Dyspnea* / therapy
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • New Zealand
  • Prospective Studies
  • Singapore / epidemiology