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Int Psychogeriatr. 2005 Dec;17(4):539-55. Epub 2005 Sep 27.

What is the effectiveness of acute hospital treatment of older people with mental disorders?

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School of Psychiatry and School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of NSW, Sydney, Australia.



To appraise the effectiveness of acute hospital service delivery in old age psychiatry.


A systematic literature search of the Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL, EMBASE and Cochrane Collaboration databases was undertaken to obtain articles published in English from 1966 to May 2004 about old age psychiatry services. Articles were excluded if they did not focus on subjects over 60 years of age, did not include quantitative data on outcomes, or if the intervention was purely pharmacological or a specific non-pharmacological technique. The two authors independently assessed data quality. The overall quality of the evidence for the effectiveness of old age mental health service delivery was rated on an evidence hierarchy that has four levels of evidence.


Forty-six studies were identified that met our criteria. The only randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were of consultation/liaison service provision and delirium prevention and hence the best quality evidence is for interventions to prevent delirium, reduce costs and length of stay (LOS) in medical wards (level II). There is lower quality (level III/IV), albeit consistently positive, evidence that acute hospital treatment by old age psychiatry services is effective. By contrast, there is no evidence (level I) that non-psychiatric hospital medical services improve mental health outcomes.


There are gaps in our knowledge regarding the effectiveness of acute hospital treatment of mental disorders in old age. Multicenter studies involving comparisons of day hospitals, multidisciplinary community teams and acute hospital settings (old age mental health and adult mental health, with and without post-discharge community care) are required.

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