Life expectancy of people with Down syndrome has been increasing over the last ten years, with consequent increases in the incidence of morbidity as they age.
The authors of this study carried out by Israeli researchers point out that there is not much literature exploring this morbidity or looking at hospitalisation of adults with Down syndrome, and set out to look at this issue in relation to experience in their country.
They looked at of 297 hospitalisations of 120 adults with Down syndrome aged between 18 and 73 at Hadassah Medical Centers from 1988–2007 and compared these with data from hospitalisations in the general population during the same period.
They found that for those aged 18 to 66, the mean number of hospitalisations was significantly higher and lasting significantly longer than for those in the general population.
Exceptionally long hospitalizations were seen at the departments of internal medicine, dermatology and intensive care units. There was no significant difference in mortality between those with Down syndrome and those in the general population (P = 0.221).
They found that over a quarter of hospitalisations of those with Down syndrome were caused by infectious diseases, mostly respiratory infections.
They found higher than expected rates of hypothyroidism at 30.8%. The prevalence of congenital heart disease, dementia, osteoporosis and obesity however was found to be less than they expected.
They conclude from the study that their findings suggest that adults with Down syndrome are hospitalised more than the general population and for a longer duration.
They suggest that this shows a
need for preventive community-based medicine, awareness of co-morbidities and possible deterioration and to prepare the medical staff for a complex course of illness, expecting longer hospitalizations, arising from the complexity of this population.
Morbidity and hospitalizations of adults with Down syndrome, Tenenbaum A,, in Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33, 2 435–441