Original Study| Volume 21, ISSUE 4, P493-499, April 2020

Association Between Level of Arousal and 30-Day Survival in Acutely Ill Older Adults

  • Flavia Barreto Garcez
    Address correspondence to Flavia Barreto Garcez, MD, Division of Geriatrics, University of Sao Paulo Medical School, Av. Dr. Eneas de Carvalho Aguiar 225, 05403-000 Sao Paulo SP, Brazil.
    Division of Geriatrics, University of Sao Paulo Medical School, Sao Paulo, Brazil
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  • Wilson Jacob-Filho
    Division of Geriatrics, University of Sao Paulo Medical School, Sao Paulo, Brazil

    Medical Research Laboratory (LIM-66), Hospital das Clinicas, University of Sao Paulo Medical School, Sao Paulo, Brazil
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  • Thiago Junqueira Avelino-Silva
    Division of Geriatrics, University of Sao Paulo Medical School, Sao Paulo, Brazil

    Medical Research Laboratory (LIM-66), Hospital das Clinicas, University of Sao Paulo Medical School, Sao Paulo, Brazil

    School of Medicine, Faculdade Israelita de Ciências da Saúde Albert Einstein, Sao Paulo, Brazil
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Published:January 20, 2020DOI:



      To investigate the association between impaired arousal on admission and 30-day mortality in acutely ill older adults.


      Retrospective cohort study.

      Setting and Participants

      Patients age +65 years admitted to the geriatric ward of a tertiary university hospital from 2010 to 2018 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.


      Participants were evaluated on admission according to a standardized comprehensive geriatric assessment model. Delirium was detected using the short version of the Confusion Assessment Method (Short-CAM). We used 2 alternative criteria to define impaired arousal: lethargy, stupor, or coma according to the Short-CAM; and a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of ≤13. Our primary outcome was time-to-death in 30 days, and we used Cox proportional hazards models to explore the association between impaired arousal and decreased survival.


      We included 1554 admissions with a mean age of 81 years and of whom 61% were women. Overall, prevalent delirium was observed in 28% of the cases. We found that in 33% of admissions, patients were lethargic, stuporous, or comatose, and that in 23%, they had GCS scores of ≤13. General 30-day mortality was 19% but reached 32% in patients with GCS scores of ≤13. Impaired arousal was independently associated with lower survival in 30 days, both when defined using Short-CAM criteria [lethargy + stupor + coma: hazard ratio (HR) 2.33, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.66‒3.27] and GCS scores (GCS 12‒13: HR 1.62, 95% CI 1.13‒2.33; GCS ≤ 11: HR 2.53, 95% CI 1.68‒3.80). In interaction analyses, we confirmed our results in patients who had impaired arousal but were neither delirious (lethargy + stupor + coma: HR 2.16, 95% CI 1.44‒3.24; GCS ≤ 11: HR 3.07; 95% CI 1.50‒6.29) nor demented (lethargy + stupor + coma: HR 1.95, 95% CI 1.15‒3.28).

      Conclusions and Implications

      Level of arousal on admission was an independent predictor of 30-day survival in acutely ill older adults, regardless of delirium or baseline dementia. Clinicians should be aware that even if unsure of whether a patient has delirium, arousal assessment can provide crucial clinical and prognostic insight.


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