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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: Mar 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 13, 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.


ACP/AAFP guidelines for hypertension treatment in older adults (March 2017)

The American College of Physicians/American Academy of Family Physicians (ACP/AAFP) have issued guidelines for pharmacologic treatment of hypertension in older adults, addressing targets for blood pressure [1]. These guidelines depart from our recommendations and from other recent guidelines (the 2016 Canadian Hypertension Education Program [CHEP] guidelines and the 2016 National Heart Foundation of Australia guidelines) released after publication of the SPRINT trial. The ACP/AAFP suggest a goal systolic pressure of <150 mmHg in adults 60 years of age and older, with consideration of a goal <140 mmHg in patients at high cardiovascular risk. However, we continue to recommend lower goals for such patients, consistent with guidelines from other groups. (See "What is goal blood pressure in the treatment of hypertension?", section on 'Recommendations of others'.)

Antipsychotic drugs and risk of falls and fracture (March 2017)

In a large, population-based sample of Finnish people with Alzheimer disease, new users of antipsychotic medication had an increased risk of hip fractures from the first days of use [2]. Subsequent to multiple similar reports in patients with varied disorders, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that antipsychotic drugs may cause falls and fractures as a result of somnolence, postural hypotension, and/or motor and sensory instability, and recommended that a fall risk assessment be completed when initiating antipsychotic treatment and recurrently for patients continuing on long-term antipsychotics. (See "Second-generation antipsychotic medications: Pharmacology, administration, and side effects", section on 'Falls'.)

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 [3]. 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 [4]. 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 [5]. 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 [6]. 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'.)


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'.)


Treatment with levothyroxine provides no symptomatic benefit in older adults with subclinical hypothyroidism (April 2017)

Subclinical hypothyroidism is defined biochemically as an elevated serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and a normal serum-free thyroxine (T4) level. Some patients with subclinical hypothyroidism may have vague, nonspecific symptoms. Although virtually all experts recommend treatment of subclinical hypothyroidism when serum TSH concentrations are ≥10 mU/L, treatment of patients with TSH values between the upper reference limit and 9.9 mU/L remains controversial, particularly in older patients who are more likely to have complications from unintended overtreatment. In a randomized trial evaluating the effect of T4 versus placebo on quality of life measures in over 700 older patients (mean age 74.4 years) with mean TSH 6.4 mU/L, there was no difference in hypothyroid symptoms or tiredness scores after one year [8]. We do not routinely treat older patients with TSH between the upper reference limit and 9.9 mU/L (algorithm 1). (See "Subclinical hypothyroidism in nonpregnant adults", section on 'Hypothyroid signs and symptoms'.)


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'.)


High-dose influenza vaccine in older adults (March 2017)

For influenza vaccination of adults ≥65 years of age, we recommend the high-dose inactivated influenza vaccine, which has previously been shown to be more immunogenic and modestly more effective at preventing influenza infection than the standard-dose vaccine. In a study of United States Medicare beneficiaries ≥65 years of age, the high-dose vaccine was more effective than the standard-dose vaccine for preventing postinfluenza death during the 2012-2013 influenza season, a season when circulation of H3N2 influenza A (a strain associated with severe disease) was common [10]. In contrast, it was not more effective for preventing postinfluenza death during the following season, when H1N1 influenza A (a strain associated with mild disease) predominated. This difference was likely due to the difficulty in demonstrating benefit during a mild influenza season, when death is a rare outcome. The high-dose vaccine was associated with a reduced risk of hospitalization during both seasons. (See "Seasonal influenza vaccination in adults", section on 'High-dose vaccine'.)

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 [11]. 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'.)


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'.)

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  1. Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, Rich R, et al. Pharmacologic Treatment of Hypertension in Adults Aged 60 Years or Older to Higher Versus Lower Blood Pressure Targets: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Ann Intern Med 2017; 166:430.
  2. Koponen M, Taipale H, Lavikainen P, et al. Antipsychotic Use and the Risk of Hip Fracture Among Community-Dwelling Persons With Alzheimer's Disease. J Clin Psychiatry 2017.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Antoniou T, Macdonald EM, Zhan Y et al. Association between statin use. CMAJ 2017; 189.
  8. Stott DJ, Rodondi N, Kearney PM, et al. Thyroid Hormone Therapy for Older Adults with Subclinical Hypothyroidism. N Engl J Med 2017.
  9. Kwo PY, Cohen SM, Lim JK. ACG Clinical Guideline: Evaluation of Abnormal Liver Chemistries. Am J Gastroenterol 2017; 112:18.
  10. Shay DK, Chillarige Y, Kelman J, et al. Comparative effectiveness of high-dose versus standard-dose influenza vaccines among US Medicare beneficiaries in preventing postinfluenza deaths during 2012-2013 and 2013-2014. J Infect Dis 2017.
  11. 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.
  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 2017; 166:157.
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