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עמוד בית
Tue, 01.12.20

May 2003

Geriatrics in Israel
B. Habot and S. Tsin

Since the early 1980s demographic changes compelled Israel’s health system to dedicate efforts to establish modern geriatric services. This task was performed with the help of governmental and non-governmental institutions and was coordinated by the Division of Geriatrics and Long-Term Care Diseases of the Ministry of Health. Today, 20 years later, as a result of those efforts, geriatrics and geriatric services in Israel are thriving. Qualified staff, including physicians who specialized in geriatrics, are working to maintain a high quality of care in various geriatric settings. However, more resources should be allocated for research in order to maintain and to continue to develop geriatric medicine in Israel.

Original Articles
M. Shechter, G. Auslander, E.E. Weinmann and A. Bass

Background: The chronic progressive course of peripheral arterial occlusive disease with its limb-threatening and life-threatening potential is associated with physical, psychological and social distress for elderly patients and their families.

Objective: To evaluate the influence of infra-inguinal bypass surgery for limb salvage, and social support, on quality of life in elderly patients (over 60 years old).

Methods: Sixty patients aged 60 years and above diagnosed with limb-threatening ischemia were evaluated using the SF-36 generic questionnaire for quality of life, and the MOS-SS questionnaire for social support. Thirty patients (group I) were evaluated in the hospital prior to reconstructive surgery and 30 postoperative patients (group II) were evaluated at home at least 6 months after infra-inguinal bypass operations. Both groups were comparable in terms of age, gender, prevalence of ischemic heart disease, diabetes, and other atherosclerosis risk factors.

Results: All quality of life parameters were higher among patients who underwent limb salvage surgery (group II) as compared to preoperative patients (group I), yet the obtained values were lower than those in the general population. Patients in the surgical intervention group had higher levels of function, lower pain levels, and higher emotional and social well-being and, in addition, were spared limb amputation. The findings also indicate that the social support dimensions (emotional support, receipt of information, affection and positive social interaction), as measured in terms of perceived availability, do not operate as one entity. Different types of social support were more beneficial along different stages of the disease.

Conclusion: Peripheral arterial occlusive disease causes severe impairment of the quality of life in elderly patients. Arterial reconstructive surgery improves the quality of life though it still remains low compared to the general population. Social support is beneficial in the treatment of these patients, and the social worker in the vascular surgery department has a key role in identifying the various needs of the patients along the path of their chronic illness.

M. Ben Haim, S.T. Zwas, Y. Munz, D. Rosin, E.L. Shabtai, J. Kuriansky, D. Olchovsky, O. Zmora, A. Scarlat, A. Ayalon and M. Shabtai

Background: Primary hyperparathyroidism in elderly patients is usually associated with additional co-morbidity that increases operative risk, and thus many geriatric patients are denied the benefit of surgery for a single parathyroid adenoma.

Objectives:  To evaluate the safety and efficacy of accurate single photon emission computed tomography sestamibi scintigraphy, enabling precise localization of a single adenoma, in the geriatric population

Methods: Twenty-two patients aged 70 years and over with biochemically proven PHPT[1] and with a single parathyroid adenoma identified by localization studies (sestamibi SPECT[2] scan and ultrasonography) underwent 23 operations over 29 months (out of a total of 140 patients operated upon during the same period). Immediate preoperative sestamibi scintigraphy and marking of focal adenoma uptake followed by intraoperative hand-held gamma probe were used for the removal of the parathyroid adenoma by unilateral minimal access surgery. Associated major co-morbid conditions and pre- and postoperative calcium, phosphorus and parathormone levels were recorded. Indications for surgery were listed and operative and postoperative complications were noted. The patients were followed for a mean period of 17.7 months using the same parameters.

Results: The 22 patients with PHPT had a mean age of 76.3 ± 5.9 years (range 70–88 years)  and a female to male ratio of 13:9. Associated co-morbidity included ischemic heart disease (n=15), hypertension (n=22), non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (n=9), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (n=3), and previous neck surgery (n=3). Mean preoperative serum calcium, phosphorous and PTH[3] were 11.7 ± 1.3 mg/dl, 2.5 ± 0.5 mg/dl and 160.9 ± 75.4 pg/ml respectively. In 20 of the 22 patients, surgery was successful in curing PHPT (91%). One patient had persistent hypercalcemia due to a missed adenoma, and repeat operation (by focused minimal access surgery) was successfully performed 2 weeks later. There were no complications and no morbidity postoperatively. Mean postoperative serum calcium, phosphorous and PTH were 9.6 ± 1.2 mg/dl, 3.0 ± 0.5 mg/dl and 35.2 ± 24 pg/ml respectively. In all patients, serum calcium levels remained normal (9.7 ± 1.3 mg/ml) after long-term follow-up (mean 17.7 ± 9.6 months).

Conclusions: Minimally invasive, radio-guided focused parathyroidectomy for a single adenoma is a safe and effective method to cure hyperparathyroidism in the elderly. Success of surgery is directly related to the surgeon's experience and to the precise localization marking provided by sestamibi scintigraphic SPECT localization and concurrent sonographic findings.

[1] PHPT = primary hyperparathyroidism

[2] SPECT = single photon emission computed tomography

[3] PTH = parathormone

A. Leibovitz, G. Plotnikov, B. Habot, M. Rosenberg, A. Wolf, R. Nagler, E. Graf and R. Segal

Objective: To reexamine the impact of prolonged nasogastric tube feeding on the oral microbiota and to explore the salivary flow and composition in elderly patients in long-term care.

Methods: We compared a group of elderly patients fed by nasogastric tube with a control group of elderly patients in long-term care who are fed orally. Bacteriologic studies were performed by culturing samples from the oropharynx. Saliva studies included quantitative and biochemical analysis of basal and stimulated salivary flow.

Results: Bacteriologic studies performed in 90 patients revealed a significantly higher prevalence of gram-negative bacteria in nasogastric tube-fed patients (73% vs. 13%, P < 0.001). It is emphasized that Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae were commonly and exclusively isolated from the oral flora of the nasogastric tube-fed patients (P < 0.001, P < 0.05). In the saliva studies performed on 23 nasogastric tube-fed and 21 control patients, basal and stimulated salivary flow was not significantly different in the two groups, however the ratio of stimulated to basal flow was reduced in the nasogastric tube-fed group (P < 0.05). Significant differences were also found in the concentrations of sodium, amylase, phosphor and magnesium. Noteworthy was the concentration of uric acid, the main non-enzymatic antioxidant of saliva, which was significantly lower in nasogastric-tube fed patients (P < 0.002).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that prolonged nasogastric tube feeding is associated with pathologic colonization of the oropharynx and with alterations in the saliva that are related to the risk of aspiration pneumonia. Further research is called for, as well as a thorough revision of the existing oral cleansing procedures in these patients.

E. Aizen, N. Dranker, R. Swartzman and R. Michalak

Background: Risk factors for injurious falls among elderly people differ from those for falls in general. The characteristics of falls play an important role in determining the risk of hip fracture.

Objective: To investigate the risk factors associated with the fall characteristics known to be associated with the majority of hip fractures, e.g., a lateral fall and a subsequent impact on the greater trochanter.

Methods: In this 6 month prospective observational case-control study 101 individuals aged 65 years and over hospitalized following a hip fracture were interviewed 7–14 days after the accident. Data were also obtained from medical records, focusing on known predisposing and situational risk factors for the fall. We compared the risk factors between two groups: patients who suffered a lateral fall and subsequent impact on the greater trochanter of the femur, and patients who suffered other types of falls.

Results: Only 51.5% of the hip fracture patients reported that they had fallen directly to the side. Apart from age, there were no significant differences between the groups in other factors studied. When considering both fall direction and the area that took the main impact, we found that the majority of patients (85%) reported having fallen onto the posterolateral aspect and/or a fall with an impact on the greater trochanter.

Conclusion: Our findings did not show differences (except for age) in the factors studied between the groups. This study suggests that both fall direction and the area that takes the main impact should be considered in the characteristics of falls that might cause a hip fracture. Characteristics associated with greatest fracture risk include a fall onto the posterolateral aspect and/or a fall with an impact on the greater trochanter. More studies are needed to evaluate potential risk factors associated with this type of injury.

D.S Silverberg, D. Wexler, M. Blum, D.Schwartz, G. Keren, D. Sheps, and A. Iaina

Background: Congestive heart failure is extremely common in octogenarians and is associated with severe fatigue, shortness of breath, recurrent hospitalizations, and death. These patients, many of whom are anemic, are often resistant to standard CHF[1] therapy including angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, beta-blockers and diuretics.

Objectives: To examine whether correction of the anemia (hemoglobin <12 g/dl) in CHF patients lowers their resistance to therapy.

Methods: Forty octogenarians with anemia and severe resistant CHF were administered a combination of subcutaneous erythropoietin and intravenous iron sucrose.

Results: This combination therapy led to a marked improvement in cardiac function, shortness of breath and fatigue, a marked reduction in the rate of hospitalization and a stabilizing of renal function.

Conclusion: Anemia appears to be an important but ignored contributor to the progression of CHF, and its correction may improve cardiac and renal status as well as the quality of life in elderly patients.

[1] CHF = congestive heart failure

A. Leibovitz, O. Blumenfeld, R. Segal, E. Lubart, Y. Baumoehl and B. Habot

Background: While age at death is on the rise, the number of postmortem examinations is declining and is disproportionately low among the elderly population. Research on the subject of gender-associated pathology in the elderly is also scarce.

Objective: To seek eventual gender-related differences in autopsies of elderly patients.

Methods: We analyzed the data extracted from a published report on 93 PMEs[1] performed at a geriatric hospital during the past 20 years.

Results: Ninety-three autopsies, representing 1.2% of the 8,101 deaths during these 20 years, were performed. Forty-five of the deceased were women and 48 were men. The incidence of pulmonary embolism was significantly higher in women (28%) than in men (10%) (P< 0.02). There was no significant difference in the gender distribution of the other diagnoses.

Conclusion: Gender distribution of PME-based causes of death in elderly patients revealed a significant rate of pulmonary embolism in women. A thorough search of the medical literature revealed two previous studies with similar findings. Further research will determine whether pulmonary embolism is more frequent or whether it has a worse prognosis in frail elderly women.

[1] PME = postmortem examination

N. Bentur and S. Resnizky

Background: An important question on the health agenda concerns the most appropriate place to hospitalize stroke patients and its effect on acute stroke care.

Objectives: To examine how the existing hospital system treats these patients, specifically: a) the departments to which stroke patients are admitted; b) differences in the admission, diagnosis and rehabilitative care of stroke patients, by department; c) patient characteristics, by department; and d) mortality rates during hospitalization.

Methods: We surveyed 616 people with acute stroke (ICD-CM9 430-433, 436) admitted consecutively to one of seven large general hospitals in Israel between October 1998 and January 1999. Data were collected from medical records at admission and at discharge.

Results: Forty-two percent of the patients were admitted to an internal medicine department, 56% to a neurology department, and only 2% to a geriatric department. The majority (95%) underwent a computed tomography scan of the brain, but other imaging tests were performed on fewer patients, with significant differences among hospitals and between internal medicine and neurology departments. Patients admitted to neurology departments were younger and had milder stroke symptoms than did patients admitted to internal medicine departments. Fifty-three percent of patients received at least one type of rehabilitative care during their hospital stay – usually physiotherapy, and least often occupational therapy. Seventeen percent of stroke patients died during hospitalization. Mortality was not found to be related to the admitting department.

Conclusions: Uniform realistic policies and work procedures should be formulated for all hospitals in Israel regarding the admitting department and processes as well as the performance of diagnostic imaging. Standards of medical and rehabilitative care and discharge destination should be developed to promote quality of care while containing utilization and costs.

Z. Fuchs, I. Novikov, T. Blumstein, A. Chetrit, J. Gindin and B. Modan

Background: Due to multiple chronic illness and disability, the elderly consume a disproportionately large share of medications.

Objectives: To assess the patterns and determinants of drug use among the community dwelling old-old population.

Methods: The study population included 1,369 old-old persons from the baseline data of the Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Aging Study (CALAS), which is based on a national random stratified sample of the Israeli Jewish population aged 75–94 years.

Results: The mean number of drugs used by the study population was 3.3, and only 12.5% did not consume any drugs. Multivariate linear regression analysis showed that women used significantly more drugs than men, and that those born in Europe took significantly more drugs than those born in Israel and Asia-Africa. The number of medical conditions was the strongest predictor of drug use. Hospitalizations during the last year and frequent visits to family physician were also significant factors related to drug use. All variables combined explained 40% of the variance in drug use by the old-old. The most commonly used therapeutic groups were cardiovascular drugs (53%), psychotropic drugs (31%), analgesics (30%), and gastrointestinal drugs (28%).

Conclusions: Our data indicate that in addition to the association of drug use with health status and healthcare utilization, the number and type of drugs taken vary with gender and place of birth.

A. Lahad, V. Anshelevitz, M. Sonnenblick and T. Dwolatzky

Background: With the aging of the population and the increase in the number of elderly patients under the care of primary care physicians in the community, it is essential that the physician be aware of the preventive medicine recommendations for this group of patients. Accepted evidence-based guidelines have been developed for the older patient and adherence to these guidelines may play a significant role in decreasing morbidity and mortality in the elderly.

Objectives: To determine whether elderly patients in community clinics are aware of the preventive medicine practices that are relevant and available to them, and to assess which factors influence their decision to use such interventions. Of particular interest was to evaluate the role of the doctor-patient relationship on the degree of patient compliance with preventive procedures.

Methods: Patients attending community clinics of the Clalit Health Services in Jerusalem were interviewed. Background information was obtained and the patients were questioned regarding the use of the following preventive medicine recommendations: screening for occult blood in the stool, testing of vision and hearing, influenza and pneumococcal immunization, thyroid-stimulating hormone testing, digital rectal examination for prostate cancer, and calcium supplementation. The patients were questioned regarding the use of aspirin or oral anticoagulation where relevant. Factors influencing their level of compliance were examined.

Results: The study group comprised 205 patients with an average age of 74.5 years. Overall the rates of compliance were high, with 78% undergoing visual assessment, 87% fecal occult blood testing, and 81% influenza immunization. Pneumococcal immunization had been administered to 49% of those interviewed and 56% had their hearing tested. Digital rectal examination had been performed in 45% of patients. Calcium supplementation was used in 60% of patients. Almost all the patients (91–100%) noted that the physician had initiated the procedure and that non-compliance was due to patient preferences. Of the 172 patients who were assumed to benefit from aspirin use, 153 (89%) used the medication, and 87% of 23 patients with atrial fibrillation were on chronic anticoagulation.

Conclusions: A high level of compliance with preventive medicine recommendations was found among this group of elderly patients. The doctor-patient relationship had a positive effect on the patients' compliance.

J. Heinik, I. Solomesh and P. Berkman

Background: Training in geriatric psychiatry constitutes a fundamental element toward further development of this relatively new branch of medicine. However, it varies both in quantity and quality among different countries, healthcare providers and medical schools.

Objectives: To describe the demographic and professional characteristics of participants in postgraduate diploma courses in geriatric psychiatry, and the perceived contribution of the courses; and to compare these variables among the participants in 1 year and 3 year courses, and between psychiatrists and non-psychiatrists.

Methods: A retrospective self-administered questionnaire was mailed to the 153 physicians who participated in the two courses. The 60 questionnaires completed and returned were analyzed.

Results: Participants in the courses constituted a heterogenous group in terms of demographic and professional characteristics, with no differences between 1 year and 3 year course participants, or between psychiatrists vs. non-psychiatrists (with the exception of more involvement of non-psychiatrists and 1 year course participants in old-age homes). Most responders indicated both the theoretical and practical benefits and application to daily practice of the material learned. Similarly, most responders indicated that after the courses they definitely used general assessment scales to a much greater extent, particularly cognitive scales, as well as operational diagnostic criteria for dementia. Participants in the 3 year course reported more significant use of assessment scales compared with 1 year participants, and 3 year participants and psychiatrists used the cognitive scales more often. There were no other significant differences between 1 year and 3 year participants and between psychiatrists’ and non-psychiatrists’ reports regarding general and more specific contributions of the courses.

Conclusion: Postgraduate diploma courses in geriatric psychiatry seem to have a favorable effect on participants, irrespective of course duration or specialty. However, course duration positively influenced the implementation of assessment scales in general, and cognitive scales in particular. A prospective comparative study on this subject is warranted, with stricter definitions of participants’ pre-course and post-course background, attitudes, knowledge and benefits.

Molecular Biology
M. Shany

Matrix metalloproteinases are a family of enzymes that degrade different components of extracellular matrix. They play an important role in normal physiologic processes of maintaining tissue integrity and remodeling, as in wound healing, processes of development, and regeneration. However, excessive expression of MMP[1] has been observed in many disease states, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, vascular remodeling in atherosclerosis and aortic aneurysm formation, neoplastic processes, macular degeneration and many others.


[1] MMP = matrix metalloproteinases

E. Hasnis and A.Z. Reznick

Although the free radical theory of aging is widely accepted among scientists, the possibility of using antioxidants to delay the aging processes seems to encounter considerable skeptism among clinicians. This may be, at least in part, due to lack of knowledge about the basic chemistry and biological behavior of oxidative stress, antioxidants, and the complex interactions between them. However, one cannot ignore the explosive growth of information concerning the mechanisms underlying the processes of aging, their consequences, and the use of antioxidants in suppressing such effects. In order to provide patients with the most accurate information regarding the use of antioxidant supplementation in their diet, it is important to obtain basic data regarding oxidative stress and antioxidants. This article explores the role of oxidative stress in the aging phenomena, recent evidence supporting supplementation of antioxidants for aged people,  the ability of antioxidants to prevent or retard cancer and atherosclerosis (the major causes of mortality in the aged population), and the ability of antioxidant supplementation to delay age-dependent deterioration of cognitive function. Based on the data presented, we conclude that current knowledge provides insufficient and inconclusive support for antioxidant supplementation as a means of delaying aging processes, despite the encouraging results obtained in many studies.

J. Brodsky

In 2001 the number of residents aged 65 and over in Israel was 639,000, or 10% of the population. The rate of increase of the elderly population is twice that of the general population, thus the predicted number of elderly for 2020 is around 1,025,000, representing a 60% increase. While this process is determined by a decline in both fertility and mortality, in Israel, immigration has also been a central factor in the process of aging. Life expectancy stands at 76.7 for men and 80.9 for women; at age 65 it is 16.4 years for men and 18.5 for women. The major factor influencing the increase in life expectancy during the past two decades has been the prevention of death among older people. Population aging, or “the demographic transition,” also represents an "epidemiological transition” – from high rates of infectious and communicable diseases, to high rates of chronic diseases among older people. During the past two decades, the number of disabled elderly has increased more than 2.5 times. In 2001, there were about 97,400 disabled elderly in Israel, constituting about 15% of all elderly. By the year 2010, the number of disabled elderly is expected to reach 120,100. The rate of increase of the disabled elderly population is almost double that of the total elderly population, due to changes in this population’s composition. However, recent research indicates that new cohorts of elderly are healthier than earlier cohorts but experience a decline in health at older ages. While advances in standard of living, medicine, and technology have made this possible, a greater allocation of resources is required to prevent disability and maintain the quality of life.

F. Azaiza and J. Brodsky

The Arab population of Israel is relatively young. However, a significant increase is expected in the number of elderly Arabs in the coming years. At the end of 2001 there were 38,500 Arab elderly, but their number is expected to reach 92,100 by 2020. This will represent a nearly 2.5-fold increase in absolute numbers. As the population ages, the number and percentage of people with chronic diseases and related disabilities will rise significantly. While the Arab elderly are much younger than the Jewish elderly, they are more disabled and therefore have greater medical and nursing needs. An extremely important measure of the need for formal services is an elderly person’s functional ability, especially the ability to live independently. The percentage of Arab elderly who are disabled and need help with activities of daily living is two times higher than that of the Jewish elderly population. At present, 30% of the Arab elderly (39% of the women and 20% of the men), compared to 14% of Jewish elderly (17% of the women and 11% of the men), need help in at least one ADL[1] (bathing, dressing, eating, mobility in the home, rising and sitting, getting in and out of bed). Concomitant with demographic changes are forces that affect the ability of informal support systems to provide care. For example, the rising number of Arab women in the labor force together with changes in elderly peoples' living arrangements have increased the need for formal services to share responsibility for the elderly with families. As services are developed, questions arise regarding the extent to which they have been adapted to the culture and norms of Arab society and meet that society’s unique needs. This paper elaborates on some of these issues.

[1] ADL = activities of daily living

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