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Elderly Often Disabled After Mechanical Ventilation

TUESDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly hospital patients who survive being on a mechanical ventilator are more likely to suffer long-term disabilities after being discharged from hospital than those who aren't put on the ventilator, even if the levels of disability before being hospitalized are about the same, says a new study.

"Unfortunately, 70 percent of elders who receive mechanical ventilation will not survive the year. And the 30 percent who are strong enough to survive will be very disabled," study author Dr. Amber Barnato, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said in an American Thoracic Society news release.

She and her colleagues analyzed seven years of Medicare data involving 12,000 person-years and found that elderly patients who survived being on a mechanical ventilator during a hospitalization scored 30 percent lower in their ability to do activities of daily living and 14 percent lower on mobility than those who hadn't been on a ventilator while in the hospital.

The study appears online and in an upcoming print issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Previous research has yielded conflicting conclusions about the effects of mechanical ventilation on elderly patients.

"This study puts to rest the controversy; doctors can confidently tell their elderly patients that if they survive an episode of mechanical ventilation they will be much more disabled than before, and may require nursing home care," Barnato said.

She added that physicians "should discuss outcomes that are important to patients, such as disability, as well as mortality, when working with patients and their families to make decisions about the use of mechanical ventilation."

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about mechanical ventilation.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, December 2010

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