Final-Year-of-Life Pacemaker Recipients

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Older persons who have initial cardiac pacemakers implanted during their final year of life have not been characterized as a group, which makes it difficult to evaluate the suitability of some of their health services utilizations.

OBJECTIVE:

To help determine how prudently pacemakers are used in this group, we assessed its pacemaker candidates from the perspective of health and ability to perform physical activities of daily living.

DESIGN:

A retrospective, population-based, cross-sectional study.

SETTING:

The 1993 National Mortality Followback Survey.

PARTICIPANTS:

An estimated 1,647,955 persons aged 65 years or older who died in the US in 1993.

MEASUREMENTS:

Demographic and cause-of-death frequencies obtained by analyzing age, sex, race, and underlying cause-of-death variables in the survey. For persons who had initial pacemakers implanted during their last year of life, we determined the percent of persons, within 10-year age groups, who had no difficulty at any time during their final year of life performing 11 specific physical activities of daily living (e.g., climbing stairs, preparing meals, bathing). These data were obtained from negative responses to questions that asked if the decedents, at any time during their last year of life, had difficulty performing the specific activities.

RESULTS:

Of the estimated 78,941 persons aged 65 years or older with a pacemaker who died in the US in 1993, 14,158 (18%) had their first pacemaker implanted during their last year of life. Estimated median survival of the final-year-of-life recipients of pacemakers after pacemaker implantation was 5 months. Compared with the general older population that died in 1993, the final-year-of-life recipients of pacemakers group had higher percentages of persons who died of acute disorders (49% vs 19%) and who lived alone in a private home (47% vs 20%), and a lower percentage of persons with Alzheimer's disease (1% vs 7%). The age-stratified means of the percentages of final-year-of-life recipients of pacemakers who had no difficulty performing each physical activity of daily living were all greater than 50.

CONCLUSION:

Our results suggest that older persons who had initial pacemakers implanted during their final year of life and who died in 1993 were not terminally ill, inactive pacemaker candidates, in general, but relatively independent, physically functional candidates who frequently died abruptly. The physical, mental, and life expectancy factors recommended for consideration by expert guidelines for the implantation of cardiac pacemakers were generally applied to persons in this subgroup.

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