Digitalis use in a retirement community.
Complex medical problems of older patients demand that particular care be taken with their use of digitalis. Although accounting for more than 5% of the top ten prescribed drugs in the United States, studies have suggested that digitalis use might be discontinued in some patients without harm. To assess the potential impact of these observations, a survey was conducted to evaluate the extent of digitalis use in a retirement community in Florida. The community under study consisted of approximately 5600 persons, mean age 72.6 years; 97% were over age 55. The sample of 463 telephone respondents reflected the local census. Digitalis preparations had been taken by 11.4% of the sample, of whom 60% (or 6.9% of the total sample) were currently taking them. Persons taking digitalis tended to be older (P less than .002) and reported worse overall health status than those not taking the drug (P less than .025). Seventeen percent of those who had stopped use of digitalis claimed adverse symptoms or "complications." Of Florida's 10 million population, 23% are over age 60, a proportion increasing yearly. This survey suggests that digitalis use in the elderly is widespread and a potentially important area for investigating management of cardiac problems in the elderly.
Schocken, DD; Robinson, BE; Krug-Fite, J; Lyman, GH; Barry, PP
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