Valid studies comparing the clinical characteristics among adult, elderly, and the oldest old bacteremic patients are lacking. We conducted a prospective, observational study in the emergency department (ED) of a university medical center between June 2001 and June 2002. All patients >18 years of age who registered in the ED with a clinically significant, culture-positive, bloodstream infection (BSI) were enrolled. Patients were divided into 3 groups based on age: 1) oldest old (≥85 yr), 2) elderly (65-84 yr), and 3) adult (18-64 yr). The clinical and laboratory manifestations and 30-day mortality were recorded. Group comparisons were performed using the chi-square test or analysis of variance (ANOVA) test, as indicated. Survival was analyzed using the Kaplan-Meier method and the Cox-regression model, adjusted for potential confounders.A total of 890 cases of community-acquired BSI were eligible for analysis. Compared to the adult group, both the elderly and the oldest old patients had more atypical clinical manifestations, a higher propensity to develop organ failure, and a worse prognosis. Elderly patients had significantly less tachycardia (p = 0.001), but more acute respiratory (p = 0.007) and renal failure (p = 0.037); the oldest old patients had more afebrile episodes (p = 0.006), leukocytosis (p = 0.012), and more patients developed respiratory failure (p = 0.009), acute renal failure (p = 0.011), septic shock (p = 0.022), and altered mental status (p = 0.013). Urinary tract infections were the main source of BSI for both the elderly and oldest old, while the oldest old patients had significantly more pneumonia than the elderly or adults.As a group, older patients had fewer signs and symptoms of BSI, but a higher risk of organ failure and a worse prognosis than younger patients.
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