Objective: To review the effect of an aging society on the utilization of critical care services and the physiology of aging as it applies to critical illness and prognosis and management issues in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Data Source: MEDLINE, Embase, and citation review of relevant primary and review articles.
Data Synthesis: Elderly patients (age of >65 yrs) currently account for 42–52% of ICU admissions and for almost 60% of all ICU days. Aging is associated with decreased cardiopulmonary and renal reserve and with a high rate of co-morbidities, increasing the risks of the elderly developing progressive organ failure. Elderly ICU patients are at a particularly high risk of developing delirium, which is associated with significant morbidity. Severity of illness and age are the important factors determining ICU survival. Age and functional status before ICU admission are the major determinants of survival at 6 and 12 months after ICU discharge. Age alone should not be used to triage ICU patients; the decision to admit an elderly patient to an ICU should be based on the patients co-morbidities, acuity of illness, prehospital functional status, and preferences with regard to life-sustaining treatment.
Conclusions: The management of critically ill elderly patients is a complex issue and involves an understanding of the changing demographics of our society and the physiology of aging. The reality of our aging society dictates that we must focus on how to best care for the elderly who develop critical illness