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July 1993

Surgical Intensive Care in the Nonagenarian: No Basis for Age Discrimination

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, Cedars-Sinai Research Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, Calif.

Arch Surg. 1993;128(7):753-758. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1993.01420190043006

Objective:  To investigate the effect of extreme age on outcome from surgical intensive care.

Design:  Prospective data collection.

Setting:  A 20-bed noncardiac surgical intensive care unit (SICU) that admits 2200 patients per year from a 1201-bed tertiary medical center.

Patients:  Nonagenarians were compared with patients under 90 years of age over a 33-month period. Seven patients over age 100 years and 77 nonsurgical patients were excluded.

Main Outcome Measures:  Mortality and length of stay were determined for both the SICU and the entire hospitalization. The nonagenarian and younger groups were stratified by severity of illness using the first-day Simplified Acute Physiology Score (SAPS).

Results:  One hundred forty nonagenarian patients (mean±SE age, 92.1±0.2 years) were compared with 5652 younger patients (mean age, 60.1±0.3 years). The mean SAPS of 11.1 for nonagenarian patients was significantly higher than the SAPS of 8.6 for younger patients (P<.001). Mortality in the SICU was 4.3% for nonagenarian patients vs 2.3% for younger patients (P=.13). SICU mortality rose with increasing SAPS in both groups, but there was no significant difference between nonagenarian and younger patients for any SAPS group. Hospital mortality differed significantly, with 17.1% for nonagenarian patients and 5.3% for younger patients (P<.001). Hospital and SICU length of stay did not differ significantly between the groups.

Conclusions:  Nonagenarians do not differ from younger SICU patients in survival from SICU care, although hospital mortality is greater in nonagenarians. Age alone should not be used to make decisions about the utility of SICU care for the elderly. Outcome correlates better with severity of illness, and the measure is valid in young and old alike.(Arch Surg. 1993;128:753-758)