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Med Clin North Am. 2001 Nov;85(6):1441-59.

Pneumonia in the elderly.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa. 014


Pneumonia, including community-acquired, LTCF-acquired, and nosocomial infections, is a major cause of morbidity and mortality among the elderly. The aged with pneumonia often present with atypical features, including confusion, lethargy, and general deterioration of condition (silent infection). Further investigations, such as a chest radiograph frequently are required for diagnosis. The chest radiograph may be normal early on in the course of infection, particularly in dehydrated patients. The elderly are hospitalized more frequently for pneumonia, have a greater need for intravenous therapy, have a longer hospital stay, have a more prolonged course, have greater morbidity, and ultimately have a poorer outcome. Nevertheless, it may not be chronologic age per se that has a negative impact on the manifestations and outcome of pneumonia in the elderly, but rather the presence of underlying comorbid illness. The mainstay of therapy for pneumonia is antibiotics, and studies in the community and hospital have confirmed the important positive impact of early appropriate empiric therapy on outcome. Many relatively simple procedures, including attention to nutrition, influenza and pneumococcal vaccination, and avoidance of intubation, may help limit the occurrence of such infections.

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