To compare the sequential changes in extracellular water (ECW) expansion in elderly patients receiving intensive care for severe sepsis with those in a similar group of younger patients.
Inception cohort study.
Critical Care Unit and University Department of Surgery in a single tertiary care center.
A consecutive series of 14 patients older than 60 years (n=8) or younger than 40 years (n=6) with severe sepsis who completed sequential measurements of body composition during a 21-day period.
Main Outcome Measure
Sequential measurements of body composition including ECW by bromide dilution, total body water by tritium dilution, and fat-free body mass by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry were performed during 21 days after resuscitation. Excess ECW was estimated from the difference between measured ECW and ECW predicted from fat-free body mass corrected to normal hydration.
On the first study day, ECW was overexpanded by 9.05±1.87 L (mean±SEM) and 10.33±1.79 L in the young and elderly groups, respectively (P=.66). Whereas the young group excreted most of this excess ECW by day 5 (P=.008), the elderly group remained overexpanded until day 10 before mobilization of ECW occurred (P=.003). The changes over time of ECW excess were significantly different (P=.02 for group × time interaction). The elderly group required more prolonged inotropic (P=.009) and ventilatory (P=.004) support and remained in intensive care longer (P=.008) than the young group.
The period of ECW expansion is more prolonged in elderly patients with sepsis and contributes to a poorer outcome from critical illness. This new finding is of fundamental importance to the treatment of elderly patients recovering from severe sepsis.