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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 Sep;60(9):1632-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2012.04121.x.

Symptom burden predicts hospitalization independent of comorbidity in community-dwelling older adults.

Author information

1
Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center Veterans Affairs Tennessee Valley Healthcare, Nashville, Tennessee 37212, USA. Salanitro@Vanderbilt.Edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To determine whether cumulative symptom burden predicts hospitalization or emergency department (ED) visits in a cohort of older adults.

DESIGN:

Prospective, observational study with a baseline in-home assessment of symptom burden.

SETTING:

Central Alabama.

PARTICIPANTS:

Nine hundred eighty community-dwelling adults aged 65 and older (mean 75.3 ± 6.7) recruited from a random sample of Medicare beneficiaries stratified according to sex, race, and urban/rural residence.

MEASUREMENTS:

Symptom burden score (range 0-10). One point was given for each symptom reported: shortness of breath, tiredness or fatigue, problems with balance or dizziness, leg weakness, poor appetite, pain, stiffness, constipation, anxiety, and loss of interest in activities. Dependent variables were hospitalizations and ED visits, assessed every 6 months during the 8.5-year follow-up period. Using Cox proportional hazards models, time from the baseline in-home assessment to the first hospitalization and first hospitalization or ED visit was determined.

RESULTS:

During the 8.5-year follow-up period, 545 (55.6%) participants were hospitalized or had an ED visit. Participants with greater symptom burden had higher risk of hospitalization (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.09, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.05-1.14) and hospitalization or ED visit (HR = 1.10, 95% CI = 1.06-1.14) than those with lower scores. Participants living in rural areas had significantly lower risk of hospitalization (HR = 0.83, 95% CI = 0.69-0.99) and hospitalization or ED visit (HR = 0.80, 95% CI = 0.70-0.95) than individuals in urban areas, independent of symptom burden and comorbidity.

CONCLUSION:

Greater symptom burden was associated with higher risk of hospitalization and ED visits in community-dwelling older adults. Healthcare providers treating older adults should consider symptom burden to be an additional risk factor for subsequent hospital utilization.

PMID:
22985139
PMCID:
PMC3458585
DOI:
10.1111/j.1532-5415.2012.04121.x
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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