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The use of medications with anticholinergic properties and risk factors for their use in hospitalised elderly patients


M. Wawruch, Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Comenius University, Sasinkova, 4, 811 08 Bratislava, Slovakia. E-mail,



The aims of the present study were to evaluate the use of drugs with anticholinergic properties in elderly patients and to identify risk factors that increase the patient's chance of being given such medications.


The study was performed on a sample of 1636 patients aged ≥65 years hospitalised during the period between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2009 in three municipal hospitals. To evaluate the factors influencing the use of anticholinergic medications, we compared two groups—users and non-users of such drugs—in terms of sociodemographic and clinical characteristics as well as comorbid conditions. The most important risk factors were identified using the binary logistic regression model.


Hospitalisation led to a significant increase in the prevalence of anticholinergic medication users, when comparing their occurrence at the time of hospital admission and discharge (10.5% and 14.2%, respectively; p < 0.001). A significantly higher total number of prescribed drugs were found in the group of users compared with non-users, at both hospital admission (7.2 ± 3.5 vs 5.7 ± 3.1; p < 0.001) and discharge (8.7 ± 3.1 vs 7.5 ± 2.9; p < 0.001). Immobilisation, urinary incontinence and retention, constipation, gastroduodenal ulcer disease as well as neurologic and psychiatric comorbidities (depression, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy) appeared as the most important risk factors of using anticholinergic medications.


Physicians should be aware of the greater risk of adverse anticholinergic effects of drugs in certain therapeutic classes in the elderly. In patients with risk factors mentioned previously, special attention should be paid to active identification of anticholinergic effects of medications. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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