The injured elderly patient in the ICU presents many challenges. Demographic changes in western society will dramatically increase the patient population in question, and new, older, subsets are growing. The association of severe injury, preinjury comorbidity, and the aging process narrows the ability of the patient to respond to the stress of injury. When compared with younger patients, the elderly have greater mortality, morbidity, and higher costs. Age alone, however, does not predict outcome. Although aggressive or maximally supportive care is advocated, controlled data supporting this approach are lacking. Significant economic, sociologic, and ethical issues confront the care providers in almost every case. Continued and heightened study of all aspects of our injured elders focusing on the determinants of outcome is required. A realistic appraisal of the limitations of care and a reassessment of the financial implications of providing extended care are critical to the continuing ability to respond to this growing need.
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