BOSTON, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Using a series of point factors based on health conditions, researchers have developed a tool to help doctors predict a person's five-year risk for needing life support.
The tool could help families and patients plan for critical illness and advanced care that includes a mechanical ventilator to sustain life.
"We anticipate that a tool that improves the identification of people who are at risk for needing life support will allow for better communication between patients, family and physicians regarding patient wishes should these patients become incapacitated by critical illness," said Dr. Allan Walkey, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, in a press release. "Improved early communication may lead to later care more in-line with patient wishes, increasing patient autonomy and improving our ability to care for patients."
Researchers analyzed data collected on 3,666 patients between 1991 and 2009 in the Framingham Heart Study with a mean age of 74, and 88,302 patients aged 65 and older who were treated at Intermountain Healthcare clinics between 2008 and 2013. Roughly 2 percent of both groups of patients -- 80 in the FHS study and 1,725 at Intermountain -- required mechanical ventilation within five years of treatment.
Study participants were considered for age, sex, diabetes, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, alcohol use, chronic pulmonary disease, and hospitalization within the prior year to predict whether they would need life support within five years. The data collected in the study and by the hospitals confirmed the measures, showing the potential for using it clinically.
"A simple risk score using clinical examination data or administrative data may be used to predict 5-year risk of mechanical ventilation or death," researchers wrote in the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. "Further study is necessary to determine whether use of a risk score enhances advance care planning or improves quality of care of older adults."