Adults older than 65 years with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) had significantly higher rates of inpatient mortality, compared with those younger than 65 years, independent of factors including disease severity, based on data from more than 200,000 hospital admissions.
Older adults use a disproportionate share of health care resources, but data on outcomes among hospitalized older adults with gastrointestinal illness are limited, Jeffrey Schwartz, MD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, and colleagues wrote in the.
“In particular, there remains a significant concern that elderly patients are more susceptible to the development of opportunistic infections and malignancy in the setting of biological therapy, which has evolved into the standard of care for IBD over the past 10 years,” they wrote.
In their study, the researchers identified 162,800 hospital admissions for Crohn’s disease and 96,450 admissions for ulcerative colitis. Of these, 20% and 30%, respectively, were older than 65 years, which the researchers designated as the geriatric group.
In a multivariate analysis, age older than 65 years was significantly associated with increased mortality in both Crohn’s disease (odds ratio, 3.47; 95% confidence interval, 2.72-4.44; P < .001) and ulcerative colitis (OR, 2.75; 95% CI, 2.16-3.49; P < .001). The association was independent of factors included comorbidities, admission type, hospital type, inpatient surgery, and IBD subtype.
The most frequent cause of death in both groups across all ages and disease subtypes was infections (approximately 80% for all groups). The total hospital length of stay was significantly longer for geriatric patients, compared with younger patients with Crohn’s disease, in multivariate analysis (average increase, 0.19 days; P = .009). The total charges also were significantly higher among geriatric Crohn’s disease patients, compared with younger patients (average increase, $2,467; P = .012). No significant differences in hospital stay or total charges appeared between geriatric and younger patients with ulcerative colitis.
The study findings were limited by several factors such as the inclusion of older patients with IBD who were hospitalized for other reasons and by the potential for increased mortality because of comorbidities among elderly patients, the researchers noted. However, the findings support the limited data from similar previous studies and showed greater inpatient mortality for older adults with IBD, compared with hospital inpatients overall.
“Given the high prevalence of IBD patients that require inpatient admission, as well as the rapidly aging nature of the U.S. population, further studies are needed targeting geriatric patients with UC [ulcerative colitis] and CD [Crohn’s disease] to improve their overall management and quality of care to determine if this mortality risk can be reduced,” they concluded.
Tune in to risks in older adults
The study is important because the percentage of the population older than 65 years has been increasing; “at the same time, we are seeing more elderly patients being newly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis,” said Russell D. Cohen, MD, of the University of Chicago, in an interview. “These patients are more vulnerable to complications of the diseases, such as infections, as well as complications from the medications used to treat these diseases.” However, older adults are often excluded from clinical trials and even from many observational studies in IBD, he noted.
“We have known from past studies that infections such as sepsis are a leading cause of death in our IBD patients,” said Dr. Cohen. “It is also understandable that those patients who have had complicated courses and those with other comorbidities have a higher mortality rate. However, what was surprising in the current study is that, even when the authors controlled for these factors, the geriatric patients still had two and three-quarters to three and a half times the mortality than those who were younger.”
The take-home message for clinicians is that “the geriatric patient with IBD is at a much higher rate for inpatient mortality, most commonly from infectious complications, than younger patients,” Dr. Cohen emphasized. “Quicker attention to what may seem minor but could become a potentially life-threatening infection is imperative. Caution with the use of multiple immune suppressing medications in older patients is paramount, as is timely surgical intervention in IBD patients in whom medications simply are not working.”
Focus research on infection prevention, cost burden
“More research should be directed at finding out whether these deadly infections could be prevented, perhaps by preventative ‘prophylactic’ antibiotics in the elderly patients, especially those on multiple immunosuppressive agents,” said Dr. Cohen. “In addition, research into the undue cost burden that these patients place on our health care system and counter that with better access to the newer, safer biological therapies [most of which Medicare does not cover] rather than corticosteroids.”
The study received no outside funding. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose. Dr. Cohen disclosed relationships with multiple companies including AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb/Celgene, Eli Lilly, Gilead Sciences, Janssen, Pfizer, Takeda, and UCB Pharma.
SOURCE: Schwartz J et al. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2020 Nov 23.