Minerva

Breathing difficulty in older patients . . . and other stories

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i4302 (Published 10 August 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4302

Old and breathless: heart or lungs?

Breathing difficulty is the commonest trigger for acute admission in older patients. Most of it is attributed to heart failure, pneumonia, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but these diagnoses often overlap or change with repeated admissions. A study of over a quarter of a million patients aged 65 and older in 368 US hospitals finds that 32% of patients admitted with pneumonia also receive treatment for other cardiopulmonary conditions, 39% with heart failure receive treatment for pulmonary disease, and 19% with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease receive treatment for heart failure or pneumonia, or both ( J Am Geriatr Soc doi:10.1111/jgs.14303).

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