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What's new in geriatrics
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What's new in geriatrics
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
Literature review current through: Jan 2017. | This topic last updated: Feb 14, 2017.

The following represent additions to UpToDate from the past six months that were considered by the editors and authors to be of particular interest. The most recent What's New entries are at the top of each subsection.

GENERAL GERIATRICS

Structured exercise program and mobility disability in older adults (January 2017)

The randomized multicenter LIFE study, comparing a structured exercise program with a health information program among sedentary adults aged 70 to 89 years without major mobility disability at baseline, had previously reported that exercise decreased the incidence of major mobility disorder (MMD) and risk for permanent MMD. In a new report, the structured exercise also increased the likelihood of transition from MMD, if it occurred, to no MMD [1]. Preserving mobility is essential for maintaining independence and quality of life among older adults. These findings indicate that exercise both prevents initial mobility disability and promotes restored mobility in those who become disabled. (See "Physical activity and exercise in older adults", section on 'Benefits of physical activity'.)

Effectiveness of screening colonoscopy in older adults (January 2017)

The effectiveness of screening for colorectal cancer (CRC) in older adults is uncertain. Randomized trials of screening colonoscopy have not been completed, and trials currently underway do not include adults 75 years and older. A study of Medicare beneficiaries found that undergoing colonoscopy believed to be for screening modestly decreased the risk of CRC (2.2 versus 2.6 percent in the no-screening group) over an eight-year period for those aged 70 to 74 years, with a smaller, but statistically non-significant, decrease in risk (2.8 versus 3.0 percent in the no-screening group) for those 75 to 79 years [2]. Adverse events following colonoscopy occurred in less than 1 percent. The decision whether to recommend screening for a patient at any age, but especially those over 75 years of age, should depend upon the patient's health status, anticipated life expectancy, risk for colorectal cancer (CRC), and personal values. (See "Screening for colorectal cancer: Strategies in patients at average risk", section on 'Screening in older adults'.)

Vertebroplasty for osteoporotic compression fractures (November 2016)

The indications for and timing of vertebroplasty for the treatment of osteoporotic compression fractures are controversial. In a trial comparing vertebroplasty or simulated vertebroplasty (sham) in 120 patients with acute (less than six weeks) vertebral fracture and back pain, more patients in the vertebroplasty group achieved clinically significant lower pain scores at 14 days [3]. Two previous sham-controlled trials, however, did not show a significant reduction in pain with vertebroplasty, likely due to differences in study design, including different sham procedures for the control arm and varying definitions of acute vertebral fracture. (See "Osteoporotic thoracolumbar vertebral compression fractures: Clinical manifestations and treatment", section on 'Vertebroplasty'.)

Alpha-1-blocker therapy for symptoms from benign prostate hyperplasia (November 2016)

Drug treatment can reduce symptoms from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), but the comparative effectiveness of different drug treatments has not been well studied. A meta-analysis commissioned by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) compared drugs or combinations of drugs developed in the past 10 years for treatment of BPH with monotherapy using older drugs [4]. Treatment with a newer alpha-1-blocker (AB) (silodosin), a combination of an anticholinergic drug (fesoterodine, tolterodine, or solifenacin) with an AB, or a phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE-5) inhibitor (tadalafil) resulted in similar short-term symptom relief but a greater risk of adverse effects compared with treatment with an older AB (primarily tamsulosin). There was insufficient evidence to draw conclusions about other newer drugs. Thus, we suggest initial treatment of BPH symptoms with an AB alone, and choose the AB based upon cost, side effects (particularly hypotension), and potential medication interactions (especially with PDE-5 inhibitors). (See "Medical treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia", section on 'Efficacy and administration'.)

Medication modification following fracture in older adults (September 2016)

Adverse drug effects are a particularly important issue for geriatric patients and may be unrecognized as a cause of illness or injury. A study reviewed data from a sample of 168,000 Medicare patients seen for treatment of hip, shoulder, or wrist fractures [5]. In the four months prior to presentation, three-quarters of the patients had been taking a nonopioid drug associated with increased fracture risk (eg sedatives, atypical antipsychotics, tricyclic antidepressants, or antihypertensives). In the four months after the fracture, such drugs were discontinued for 7 percent but were newly prescribed for another 7 percent. Review of drug therapy, with assessment of the need for ongoing therapy and discontinuation of nonessential medications, is indicated when patients present with an injury or illness that might relate to an adverse effect of a medication. (See "Drug prescribing for older adults", section on 'Review current drug therapy'.)

Complications of dopaminergic therapy for restless legs syndrome (August 2016)

The main complication of long-term dopaminergic therapy for restless legs syndrome/Willis-Ekbom disease (RLS/WED) is “augmentation,” or an increase in symptom severity with increasing doses of medication. This may present as earlier onset of symptoms during the day, increased intensity of symptoms, or spread to previously uninvolved body parts (eg, arms, trunk). New consensus-based guidelines on the identification and management of augmentation recommend avoiding dopaminergic drugs as first-line therapy for RLS/WED when possible, screening patients on dopaminergic therapy for augmentation as part of routine clinical follow-up (table 1), and using the lowest doses possible to control symptoms [6]. Treatment options for augmentation reviewed in the guideline include altering the dopaminergic dosing schedule, switching to an extended release preparation, and transitioning to an alpha-2-delta calcium channel ligand (eg, gabapentin enacarbil, pregabalin). In addition, alternative causes of worsening symptoms should be sought, such as low iron stores, sleep deprivation, and certain drugs such as serotonergic antidepressants. (See "Treatment of restless legs syndrome/Willis-Ekbom disease and periodic limb movement disorder in adults", section on 'Augmentation'.)

GERIATRIC CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE

Dabigatran combined with certain statins associated with increased risk of major bleeding (February 2017)

An analysis of health records of nearly 46,000 Canadian patients showed that older adults (age ≥66) with atrial fibrillation taking dabigatran who also received simvastatin or lovastatin had approximately a 50 percent greater risk of hospitalization for major hemorrhage relative to those who used other statins [7]. Although the mechanism for this interaction is uncertain, until additional information becomes available, it may be prudent to choose a statin other than lovastatin or simvastatin for older patients receiving dabigatran, and for those with an elevated risk for serious bleeding. (See "Statins: Actions, side effects, and administration", section on 'Drug interactions'.)

GERIATRIC ENDOCRINOLOGY AND DIABETES

Postmenopausal estrogen and cognitive function (August 2016)

While limited observational and clinical trial data have suggested that early, but not late, postmenopausal exposure to estrogen provides protection against later cognitive impairment, a new randomized trial found no benefit of estrogen regardless of when it was started. In the Early versus Late Intervention Trial with Estradiol (ELITE), 643 postmenopausal women, stratified according to time since menopause (<6 years [early] versus >10 years [late]), received oral estradiol (with progesterone for women with a uterus) or placebo for a median of five years [8]. When compared with placebo, estradiol, whether it was started early or late, had no effect on verbal memory, executive function, or global cognition. (See "Estrogen and cognitive function", section on 'Younger menopausal women'.)

GERIATRIC GASTROENTEROLOGY

ACG guidelines on the evaluation of abnormal liver chemistries (January 2017)

The American College of Gastroenterology has published new guidelines on the evaluation of abnormal liver chemistries [9]. These guidelines define normal alanine aminotransferase (ALT) ranges as 29 to 33 international units/L for males and 19 to 25 international units/L for females, which are lower than the reference ranges of many clinical laboratories. They recommend that ALT levels repeatedly above these upper limits of normal be evaluated. In addition, they provide a framework for the evaluation of elevated ALT, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and alkaline phosphatase levels (which should be characterized as liver chemistries or tests rather than markers of liver function) based on the degree and pattern of elevations. (See "Approach to the patient with abnormal liver biochemical and function tests", section on 'Aminotransferases'.)

GERIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASES

Cranberry products and urinary tract infection in women (October 2016)

Numerous clinical studies on the effects of cranberry products on recurrent urinary tract infection (UTI) in women have failed to clearly demonstrate a preventive benefit. In a year-long randomized trial among female nursing home residents, cranberry capsules similarly did not reduce adjusted rates of bacteriuria plus pyuria or symptomatic UTI compared with placebo [10]. While we do not suggest cranberry products to reduce the risk of recurrent UTI, there is likely little harmful effect. (See "Recurrent urinary tract infection in women", section on 'Cranberry products'.)

Investigational inactivated vaccine to prevent zoster and postherpetic neuralgia (September 2016)

The live attenuated zoster vaccine reduces the risk of herpes zoster with a reported vaccine efficacy of 60 to 70 percent in adults 50 years and older but appears to have decreased efficacy in adults 70 years and older. In an initial trial of the experimental recombinant inactivated zoster vaccine (HZ/su), administered in two doses, overall vaccine efficacy was 97 percent in adults 50 years and older. In a subsequent randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 13,900 patients aged 70 and older, vaccine efficacy for preventing herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia was each approximately 90 percent after a mean 3.7-year follow-up [11]. No serious adverse events were reported in either trial; however, reactions such as pain at the injection site and myalgias were more common among those who received the vaccine. If approved, this inactivated vaccine may be particularly useful for such older individuals and immunocompromised individuals who cannot receive live vaccines, but it requires two doses for initial protection. (See "Vaccination for the prevention of shingles (herpes zoster)", section on 'Investigational vaccines'.)

GERIATRIC NEUROLOGY

High-risk drug prescribing in adults with dementia (February 2017)

Older adults with dementia are at heightened risk for adverse drug effects from anticholinergic drugs, benzodiazepines, and opioids, among many others. Despite these risks, polypharmacy remains common in this population. In a study that included over 75,000 adults with dementia, 44 percent of patients were prescribed at least one potentially unsafe medication (mostly drugs with high anticholinergic activity), and rates were consistently higher in patients receiving care from multiple providers [12]. These results highlight the need for careful monitoring of drug therapy in patients with dementia and the importance of communication among providers before starting new therapies. (See "Safety and societal issues related to dementia", section on 'Polypharmacy'.)

Declining use of feeding tubes in advanced dementia (August 2016)

Patients with advanced dementia commonly have eating problems in the final stages of illness, and caregivers are faced with decisions about whether to continue oral feeding by hand or place a long-term feeding tube. The available evidence fails to demonstrate any health benefits of tube feeding over ongoing hand feeding, and an increasing number of consensus-based guidelines advocate against feeding tube placement in this setting. In keeping with these recommendations, a recent study in the United States found that the proportion of nursing home residents with advanced dementia who received a feeding tube within one year of the onset of feeding problems decreased by approximately 50 percent between the years 2000 and 2014 [13]. Advance care planning is critical in the management of patients with dementia and should include preparatory discussions about eating problems and other common complications encountered in the advanced stages of the disease. (See "Palliative care of patients with advanced dementia", section on 'Oral versus tube feeding'.)

GERIATRIC ONCOLOGY

Initial treatment for localized, low-risk prostate cancer (September 2016)

There are many options for treating men with localized, low-risk prostate cancer. The most extensive data comparing these options come from the Prostate testing for cancer and Treatment (ProtecT) trial, in which 1653 patients with localized, low-risk prostate cancer were randomly assigned to active monitoring of serum PSA, radical prostatectomy, or radiation therapy (RT) [14,15]. At a median follow-up of 10 years, there was no difference in 10-year overall survival, which was approximately 99 percent for all three groups. However, the incidence of metastases was increased in patients randomized to active surveillance (6.3 per 1000 person-years versus 2.4 and 3.0 for those managed with radical prostatectomy or RT). Longer follow-up will be required to know whether the higher incidence of metastatic disease affects cancer-specific mortality, overall mortality, or quality of life. Decisions regarding the choice of treatment continue to be individualized based upon a consideration of patient age, comorbidity, and patient preferences. (See "Initial approach to low- and very low-risk clinically localized prostate cancer", section on 'ProtecT trial'.)

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REFERENCES

  1. Gill TM, Guralnik JM, Pahor M, et al. Effect of Structured Physical Activity on Overall Burden and Transitions Between States of Major Mobility Disability in Older Persons: Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med 2016; 165:833.
  2. García-Albéniz X, Hsu J, Bretthauer M, Hernán MA. Effectiveness of Screening Colonoscopy to Prevent Colorectal Cancer Among Medicare Beneficiaries Aged 70 to 79 Years: A Prospective Observational Study. Ann Intern Med 2017; 166:18.
  3. Clark W, Bird P, Gonski P, et al. Safety and efficacy of vertebroplasty for acute painful osteoporotic fractures (VAPOUR): a multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2016; 388:1408.
  4. Brasure M, MacDonald R, Dahm P, et al.. Newer Medications for Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms Attributed to Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: A Review, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US), Rockville, MD 2016.
  5. Munson JC, Bynum JP, Bell JE, et al. Patterns of Prescription Drug Use Before and After Fragility Fracture. JAMA Intern Med 2016; 176:1531.
  6. Garcia-Borreguero D, Silber MH, Winkelman JW, et al. Guidelines for the first-line treatment of restless legs syndrome/Willis-Ekbom disease, prevention and treatment of dopaminergic augmentation: a combined task force of the IRLSSG, EURLSSG, and the RLS-foundation. Sleep Med 2016; 21:1.
  7. Antoniou T, Macdonald EM, Zhan Y et al. Association between statin use. CMAJ 2017; 189.
  8. Henderson VW, St John JA, Hodis HN, et al. Cognitive effects of estradiol after menopause: A randomized trial of the timing hypothesis. Neurology 2016; 87:699.
  9. Kwo PY, Cohen SM, Lim JK. ACG Clinical Guideline: Evaluation of Abnormal Liver Chemistries. Am J Gastroenterol 2017; 112:18.
  10. Juthani-Mehta M, Van Ness PH, Bianco L, et al. Effect of Cranberry Capsules on Bacteriuria Plus Pyuria Among Older Women in Nursing Homes: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA 2016; 316:1879.
  11. Cunningham AL, Lal H, Kovac M, et al. Efficacy of the Herpes Zoster Subunit Vaccine in Adults 70 Years of Age or Older. N Engl J Med 2016; 375:1019.
  12. Thorpe JM, Thorpe CT, Gellad WF, et al. Dual Health Care System Use and High-Risk Prescribing in Patients With Dementia: A National Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med 2016.
  13. Mitchell SL, Mor V, Gozalo PL, et al. Tube Feeding in US Nursing Home Residents With Advanced Dementia, 2000-2014. JAMA 2016; 316:769.
  14. Hamdy FC, Donovan JL, Lane JA, et al. 10-Year Outcomes after Monitoring, Surgery, or Radiotherapy for Localized Prostate Cancer. N Engl J Med 2016; 375:1415.
  15. Donovan JL, Hamdy FC, Lane JA, et al. Patient-Reported Outcomes after Monitoring, Surgery, or Radiotherapy for Prostate Cancer. N Engl J Med 2106.
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