Critical Care Hospitalization Increases Dementia Risk for Elderly

Seniors hospitalized for intensive care illnesses are more likely to become diagnosed with dementia in the years following discharge, according to new research from BioMed Central’s Critical Care.

Taking a 5% sample of Medicare beneficiaries over age 65, the study found that dementia was newly diagnosed in 17.8% of the 25,368 patients who received intensive care in 2005 and later survived to hospital discharge.  

The follow-up period after discharge covered three years for patients with infections, severe sepsis, acute neurologic dysfunction and acute dialysis. The study found all of these ailments were independently associated with a diagnosis of dementia. 


Researchers believe these ailments to be valid risk factors for dementia in elderly Medicare patients.

Excluding patients with any prior diagnoses of cognitive impairments, the study defined dementia using the International Classification of Diseases, 9th edition, and found these intensive care ailments to be valid risk factors among elderly individuals.

As millions of people age every year, the study notes, greater emphasis must be placed on the consequences of hospitalizations and their impacts on elderly patients. 


“A greater understanding of the consequences of these hospitalizations and identification of patients at risk for specific types of morbidity as well as mortality may allow for better planning, ” writes the study’s lead author, Dr. Hannah Wunsch of Columbia University Medical Center. 

Furthermore, Dr. Wunsch stresses that the identification of groups at risk will allow future studies to better target risk factors associated with dementia. 

An abstract of the Critical Care research can be found here.

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Written by Jason Oliva