The aging world population will increase the incidence and mortality of severe sepsis. The aim of the present article is to review the pathophysiological differences in sepsis and its clinical impact on the elderly. The impact of immunosenescence on innate and acquired immunity is associated with relative immunologic depression that may favor the spreading of inflammation. Elderly patients also have enhanced apoptotic pathways that may contribute to the incidence of mortality due to sepsis. The inflammation-coagulation network is activated by age, explaining the success of some specific therapies. The initial clinical picture of sepsis in the elderly may be ambiguous but the specific pathopysiological changes of aging increase the risk of a sudden deterioration to severe sepsis with the development of a serious cardiovascular dysfunction. The reduced stress tolerance characteristic of aged tissues explains the high incidence of multi-organ failure in such patients. The specific pathophysiological and clinical picture of sepsis underlies the increased mortality in such patients and prompts research on therapeutic strategies with particular benefits to elderly septic patients.
Keywords: Aging, sepsis, immunology, immunosenescence, apoptosis, coagulation, shock
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