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November 11, 1996

Thirty-Day Case-Fatality Rates for Pulmonary Embolism in the Elderly

Arch Intern Med. 1996;156(20):2343-2347. doi:10.1001/archinte.1996.00440190097010

Background:  Short-term race- and sex-specific case-fatality rates for pulmonary embolism (PE) in the elderly have not been studied previously, to our knowledge.

Objectives:  To examine 30-day race- and sex-specific case-fatality rates of PE in the Medicare population and to determine the risk of fatality when PE was a secondary diagnosis in 6 primary concurrent conditions and 3 surgical procedures.

Methods:  Case-fatality rates were determined using the Medicare Provider Analysis and Review Record files from 1984 through 1991. All Medicare Part A beneficiaries aged 65 years or older were included, yielding more than 400 000 patients with PE. Case-fatality rates 30 days from hospital admission were calculated for both a primary discharge diagnosis of PE and a secondary discharge diagnosis of PE.

Results:  Blacks with PE as a primary discharge diagnosis had an overall age-adjusted case-fatality rate of 16.1% compared with a rate of 12.9% for whites. When PE was a secondary diagnosis, blacks also had higher rates than whites (34.7% vs 30.2%). Men had a fatality rate of 13.7% whereas women had a rate of 12.8% when PE was the primary diagnosis. For a secondary diagnosis of PE, men had a rate of 32.8% compared with a rate of 28.6% for women. The risk of fatality was very high when PE was a secondary discharge diagnosis in 6 primary concurrent conditions (congestive heart failure, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, myocardial infarction, hip fracture, and stroke) and 3 common surgical procedures (coronary artery bypass graft, hip replacement, and knee replacement) relative to the case-fatality rate when PE was not present in these conditions.

Conclusions:  Our results indicate that there are racial and gender differences in 30-day case-fatality rates for PE in elderly patients. The high fatality risk associated with PE as a comorbid factor among common primary concurrent conditions and procedures calls attention to the need for more effective prophylaxis of deep vein thrombosis and rapid diagnosis and treatment of PE when it occurs.Arch Intern Med. 1996;156:2343-2347