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What's new in geriatrics
Official reprint from UpToDate® ©2017 UpToDate®
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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: May 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 07, 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.


Goal blood pressure in older adults (May 2017)

Goal blood pressure in older hypertensive adults is controversial. A meta-analysis of over 10,000 hypertensive adults 65 years or older combined results from the older subgroup in the SPRINT trial with three other large randomized trials evaluating goal blood pressure [1]. At three-year follow-up, compared with less intensive therapy, more intensive blood pressure lowering reduced the rates of major adverse cardiovascular events, cardiovascular mortality, and heart failure. In general, UpToDate recommends a systolic blood pressure goal of 125 to 135 mmHg if standard manual blood pressure measurements are used or 120 to 125 mmHg if unattended automated oscillometric measurements are used. If attaining goal blood pressure proves difficult or burdensome for the patient, the systolic blood pressure that is reached with two or three antihypertensive agents (even if above target) may be a reasonable interim goal. (See "Treatment of hypertension in the elderly patient, particularly isolated systolic hypertension", section on 'Goal blood pressure'.)

Interval to colonoscopy following a positive fecal immunochemical test (May 2017)

How soon follow-up colonoscopy should be done to evaluate a positive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is uncertain. In a retrospective cohort study of over 70,000 patients aged 50 to 70 years who had a positive FIT, rates of detection of any colorectal cancer (CRC) or advanced-stage CRC increased with increased time intervals between positive FIT and colonoscopy [2]. Based on these findings, we encourage follow-up colonoscopy as soon as possible (and definitely within a few months) for patients who have a positive FIT. (See "Screening for colorectal cancer: Strategies in patients at average risk", section on 'A suggested approach'.)

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 [3]. 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 [4]. 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'.)

MRI in patients with pacemakers or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (March 2017)

Potential risks of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in patients with permanent pacemakers or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) include programming changes, pacing abnormalities, and induced currents in lead wires. In a prospective multicenter trial, 1500 nonthoracic MRI examinations were performed in a 1.5T magnet on patients with a non-MRI-conditional pacemaker or ICD that had been programmed according to a standardized protocol; no device or lead failures were observed [5]. While these reports are reassuring, the presence of a pacemaker or ICD is still generally considered a strong relative contraindication to routine MRI. (See "Principles of magnetic resonance imaging", section on 'Permanent pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators'.)

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 [6]. 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 [7]. 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'.)


Embolic protection devices during transcatheter aortic valve implantation (April 2017)

Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) has an evolving role as an alternative to surgical aortic valve replacement in treating patients with symptomatic severe aortic stenosis. However, TAVI is associated with an increased risk of stroke and risk of subclinical ischemic brain lesions on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Embolic protection devices (EPDs) have been studied as potential means of reducing this risk of stroke. A meta-analysis included 16 studies involving 1170 patients who underwent TAVI, the majority treated with EPD [8]. Analyses comparing EPD versus no EPD strategies could not confirm or exclude differences in clinically evident stroke or mortality at 30 days. While there was no significant difference in numbers of new lesions, use of EPD was associated with a significantly smaller total volume of ischemic lesions. Further study is needed to determine whether EPDs can improve clinical outcomes. (See "Transcatheter aortic valve implantation: Complications", section on 'Stroke and subclinical brain injury'.)

Transcatheter aortic valve implantation versus surgical aortic valve replacement in patients at intermediate surgical risk (March 2017)

The role of transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) in patients with symptomatic severe aortic stenosis with intermediate surgical risk has not been established. A randomized trial in over 1700 patients compared outcomes following TAVI (with a self-expanding bioprosthesis; over 90 percent via transfemoral access) versus surgical aortic valve placement (SAVR) [9]. The incidence of the primary composite end point of death from any cause or disabling stroke at 24 months was similar in the two groups. Rates of atrial fibrillation, transfusion, and acute kidney injury were more frequent in the SAVR group, while major vascular complications, permanent pacemaker implantation, and paravalvular aortic regurgitation were more common in the TAVI group. These results add to prior randomized trials showing that transfemoral TAVI is a noninferior alternative to SAVR in intermediate surgical risk patients with symptomatic severe aortic stenosis. (See "Choice of therapy for symptomatic severe aortic stenosis", section on 'In intermediate-risk patients'.)

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 [10]. 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'.)


Testosterone therapy in older men with low testosterone (April 2017)

The role of testosterone replacement to treat the decline in serum testosterone concentration that occurs in aging men (in the absence of identifiable pituitary or hypothalamic disease) was addressed in the multicenter Testosterone Trials (TTrials), an integrated set of seven trials in nearly 800 men over age 65 years with low testosterone and sexual dysfunction, physical dysfunction, and reduced vitality, who were randomly assigned to testosterone gel or placebo for 12 months. Initial results suggested that testosterone had a beneficial effect on sexual function, depressive symptoms, and mood, and possibly physical function (walking distance), but not on vitality [11,12] Results from recently published individual trials showed the following:

There was no effect of testosterone replacement on cognitive function in men with age-associated memory impairment [13].

There was a beneficial effect on anemia [14] and bone density [15].

Testosterone increased coronary artery noncalcified plaque volume as measured by coronary computed tomographic angiography [16].

While the small size and short duration of the subtrials are important limitations, the coronary artery plaque trial raises important concerns about the safety of testosterone therapy in older men. (See "Overview of testosterone deficiency in older men".)

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 levothyroxine 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 [17]. 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 [18]. 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'.)


Treatment of nonpurulent cellulitis (June 2017)

Empiric antibiotic therapy for nonpurulent cellulitis (ie, with no purulent drainage and no associated abscess) should be active against beta-hemolytic streptococci and methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) but not necessarily methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA). This approach is supported by a randomized trial of nearly 500 patients with nonpurulent cellulitis, in which cephalexin plus placebo (active against beta-hemolytic streptococci and MSSA) and cephalexin plus trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX, which adds activity against MRSA) resulted in statistically similar clinical cure rates (69 versus 76 percent) [19]. Although there was a trend toward higher cure rates with the addition of TMP-SMX, the results were likely skewed by a relatively large number of patients who did not complete the full course of therapy. (See "Cellulitis and skin abscess in adults: Treatment", section on 'Cellulitis'.)

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 [20]. 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'.)


Posttraumatic stress disorder after stroke (April 2017)

Recognition that experiencing a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has emerged gradually over the past two decades. In a recent review of the literature, epidemiologic studies suggest that up to one in four cases of stroke or TIA may be associated with significant PTSD symptoms [21]. (See "Posttraumatic stress disorder in adults: Epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, course, assessment, and diagnosis", section on 'Stroke'.)

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 [22]. 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'.)


Updated guidelines for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (March 2017)

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) has published updated guidelines that focus on a combined assessment of an individual's symptoms and exacerbation history to guide therapy [23]. Symptoms are assessed using standardized instruments, such as the COPD Assessment Tool (CAT) or the modified Medical Research Council (mMRC) dyspnea scale. Future exacerbation risk is based on the number of exacerbations and hospitalizations for exacerbations in the previous 12 months. (See "Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Definition, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and staging", section on 'GOLD system'.)


Quality of life in men with localized prostate cancer (March 2017)

Radical prostatectomy, external beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy, and active surveillance all are important options for the treatment of low-risk, clinically localized prostate cancer. Two large prospective studies using validated instruments provide important additional insights into the impact on quality of life for each of these treatment modalities [24,25]. The choice of therapeutic approach depends upon an informed patient decision incorporating knowledge about the potential advantages and disadvantages associated with each approach along with personal preferences (table 1 and table 2 and table 3). (See "Initial approach to low- and very low-risk clinically localized prostate cancer", section on 'Quality of life'.)

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  1. Bavishi C, Bangalore S, Messerli FH. Outcomes of Intensive Blood Pressure Lowering in Older Hypertensive Patients. J Am Coll Cardiol 2017; 69:486.
  2. Corley DA, Jensen CD, Quinn VP, et al. Association Between Time to Colonoscopy After a Positive Fecal Test Result and Risk of Colorectal Cancer and Cancer Stage at Diagnosis. JAMA 2017; 317:1631.
  3. 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.
  4. 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; 78:e257.
  5. Russo RJ, Costa HS, Silva PD, et al. Assessing the Risks Associated with MRI in Patients with a Pacemaker or Defibrillator. N Engl J Med 2017; 376:755.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Bagur R, Solo K, Alghofaili S, et al. Cerebral Embolic Protection Devices During Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Stroke 2017; 48:1306.
  9. Reardon MJ, Van Mieghem NM, Popma JJ, et al. Surgical or Transcatheter Aortic-Valve Replacement in Intermediate-Risk Patients. N Engl J Med 2017; 376:1321.
  10. Antoniou T, Macdonald EM, Zhan Y et al. Association between statin use. CMAJ 2017; 189.
  11. Snyder PJ, Bhasin S, Cunningham GR, et al. Effects of Testosterone Treatment in Older Men. N Engl J Med 2016; 374:611.
  12. Cunningham GR, Stephens-Shields AJ, Rosen RC, et al. Testosterone Treatment and Sexual Function in Older Men With Low Testosterone Levels. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2016; 101:3096.
  13. Resnick SM, Matsumoto AM, Stephens-Shields AJ, et al. Testosterone Treatment and Cognitive Function in Older Men With Low Testosterone and Age-Associated Memory Impairment. JAMA 2017; 317:717.
  14. Roy CN, Snyder PJ, Stephens-Shields AJ, et al. Association of Testosterone Levels With Anemia in Older Men: A Controlled Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med 2017; 177:480.
  15. Snyder PJ, Kopperdahl DL, Stephens-Shields AJ, et al. Effect of Testosterone Treatment on Volumetric Bone Density and Strength in Older Men With Low Testosterone: A Controlled Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med 2017; 177:471.
  16. Budoff MJ, Ellenberg SS, Lewis CE, et al. Testosterone Treatment and Coronary Artery Plaque Volume in Older Men With Low Testosterone. JAMA 2017; 317:708.
  17. Stott DJ, Rodondi N, Kearney PM, et al. Thyroid Hormone Therapy for Older Adults with Subclinical Hypothyroidism. N Engl J Med 2017.
  18. Kwo PY, Cohen SM, Lim JK. ACG Clinical Guideline: Evaluation of Abnormal Liver Chemistries. Am J Gastroenterol 2017; 112:18.
  19. Moran GJ, Krishnadasan A, Mower WR, et al. Effect of Cephalexin Plus Trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole vs Cephalexin Alone on Clinical Cure of Uncomplicated Cellulitis: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA 2017; 317:2088.
  20. 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.
  21. Garton AL, Sisti JA, Gupta VP, et al. Poststroke post-traumatic stress disorder: A review. Stroke 2017; 48:507.
  22. 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.
  23. Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management and Prevention of COPD, Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) 2017 Report (Accessed on February 10, 2017).
  24. Barocas DA, Alvarez J, Resnick MJ, et al. Association between radiation therapy, surgery, or observation for localized prostate cancer and patient-reported outcomes after 3 years. JAMA 2017; 317:1127.
  25. Chen RC, Basak R, Meyer AM, et al. Association Between Choice of Radical Prostatectomy, External Beam Radiotherapy, Brachytherapy, or Active Surveillance and Patient-Reported Quality of Life Among Men With Localized Prostate Cancer. JAMA 2017; 317:1141.
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