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Older patients in the ICU: a cautious analysis of epidemiologic data is required

Critical Care
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1186/cc10134
  • Letter
  • Biology
  • Design
  • Education
  • Medicine


CC10134-Fassier.indd Recently published in Critical Care, Roch and colleagues’ results have been extensively commented upon [1,2]. Indeed, such observational studies are necessary to im- prove our understanding of ICU older patients’ outcome [2]. We plead for cautious analysis of these epidemiologic data, however, highlighting the following points. Available studies are scarce, and are exposed to selection bias. In France, the seven main cohort studies exploring octo genarian patients’ outcome so far published did not form a representative national sample [1-3]. Among the 42 participating centers, 27 were medical ICUs and 27 were located in teaching hospitals; moreover, the hetero geneous case mix across centers impaired meaningful comparisons [1-3]. Most of these data were collected several years ago, over huge periods of time – for example, the French cohorts were enrolled from 1991 to 1996 and from 2001 to 2006 [1-3]. Th e data were possibly biased by changes in practice occurring during this time, such as changes in triage and care recently reported in cohorts of ICU older patients [3,4]. Finally, cross-national comparisons are sensitive, exposed to cultural biases. Local end-of-life policies and insurance policies can strongly infl uence ICU epidemi- ology. Between the UK and the USA for example, the ICU admission rate varies from 1.3% to 11% among the older patients dying in hospital [5]. In order to improve the admission decision-making process for ICU older patients, we call for large multicenter cohort studies, followed over time, to obtain an accurate and updated picture of this nuanced and changing epidemiology. If we are to develop prognostic scores on such studies, we need to pay special attention to their design, to ensure their external validity. Abbreviations ICU, intensive care unit. Competing interests The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Published: 27 April 2011 References 1. Roch A, Wiramus S, Pauly V, Fore

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