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Introducing the Geriatric Otolaryngology Clinic

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January 25, 2017
by Karen M. Kost, MD, FRCSC; Kourosh Parham, MD, PhD

[Editor's note: Last month we launched the new Geriatric Otolaryngology Clinic. The following Guest Editorial explains the reasoning behind our adding this new department and provides guidelines for submitting Geriatric Otolaryngology Clinic manuscripts.]

An overview of the rapidly changing demographics, particularly in developed countries, provides a perspective on the need and urgency of investing more time and energy into geriatrics in general, and geriatric otolaryngology in particular. The data presented below come from several sources listed in the references. Although the numbers vary from one report to the next, the overall trend regarding our aging population remains constant.

It is widely recognized that the geriatric age-group is the fastest growing segment of our society.1 In 2006, almost 500 million people worldwide were age 65 years and older, making up 8% of the world's population. By 2030, it is expected that 12.5% of the earth's inhabitants, numbering at least 1 billion individuals, will be over the age of 65. It is not surprising to note that the most rapid increases in the 65 and older population are occurring in developed countries, where a leap of 140% is expected by the year 2030. In the United States alone, a staggering 20% of the population will be 65 or older by the year 2030.2

The number of older persons has tripled over the past 50 years; it is projected that it will more than triple again over the next 50 years.3 On a global scale, the numbers of the “oldest old,” referring to those aged ≥80 years, are increasing more rapidly than the number of older persons overall. It is predicted that this subset will triple in number between 2015 and 2050.4 A United Nations report states, “In the more developed regions, the proportion of older persons already exceeds that of children, and by 2050 it is expected to be double that of children.”3

According to an article from the National Institute on Aging, changes affecting life expectancy are influenced by several concurrent factors including (1) declining fertility rates, (2) improved life expectancy not only at birth but also at the other end of the age spectrum, (3) a modification in disease profiles from a preponderance of infectious and parasitic illnesses to increasing numbers of noninfectious and chronic conditions, (4) economic prosperity, and (5) rapid progress in medical research, technology, and treatments.2

While the dramatic increase in the world's older population is a remarkable achievement, it also generates important challenges, with consequences in terms of economic growth, structured and family-based social support systems, and the ability of nations, communities, and families to accommodate the needs of their older citizens with the appropriate resources.2

For geriatric patients and the physicians involved in their care, preservation of functional abilities, autonomy, and a high quality of life feature prominently among their top priorities. The elderly are physiologically distinct from younger adults, with an expected but variable decline of almost all organ systems over time. These changes can often be significantly and positively modified with appropriate interventions specifically targeting older individuals.

The American Geriatric Society (AGS) came to the realization more than 20 years ago that, by itself, it would not have the resources to manage the increasing volume of geriatric patients. It is in this context that the AGS reached out to several specialties, including otolaryngology, not only to welcome this focused subspecialty area, but also to foster research and education and ultimately better prepare otolaryngologists for the evolving needs of the ever-increasing older patient population.

It is well known that elderly patients account for a large and disproportionate number of outpatient visits in any number of medical and surgical specialties. As such, it is reasonable to anticipate that the number of geriatric otolaryngology patients over the next several decades will account for a rapidly increasing proportion of the practices of otolaryngologists. Indeed, in a recent review of geriatric patients in a general otolaryngology practice between 2004 and 2010, Creighton at al noted a statistically significant increase in the number of geriatric patients from 14.3% in 2004 to 17.9% in 2010; that number is expected to increase dramatically to 30% by the year 2030.5 Furthermore, the cross-section, or profile, of otolaryngologic pathologies encountered during these outpatient visits with older individuals is distinct from those of other age groups, with otologic and vestibular complaints figuring prominently.5

It is in the context of rapidly changing demographics toward an older population, and the profound effect it will have on otolaryngology practices, that we are pleased to introduce the Geriatric Otolaryngology Clinic in the Ear, Nose & Throat Journal. The goal of this new department is to address the emerging needs of otolaryngologists and the aging population we serve through brief case presentations that will be featured quarterly.

We invite readers to submit geriatric otolaryngology case reports for consideration. The manuscripts should be submitted at Registration on the site is simple and free of charge. Manuscripts for ENT Clinic articles should not exceed 500 to 750 words and should consist of a brief case report and only minimal discussion, accompanied by 1 to 3 high-quality, high-resolution figures (minimum of 300 dpi resolution when the image size is at least 3.5 inches wide). The manuscripts should get straight to the point, with no Abstract or Introduction section and no subheads or sections.

We look forward to your submissions!


  1. Shapiro DP. Geriatric demographics and the practice of otolaryngology. Ear Nose Throat J 1999; 78 (6): 418-21.
  2. National Institute on Aging. Why population aging matters: A global perspective. National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of State. Updated January 28, 2016. Last accessed November 23, 2016.
  3. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. World population ageing: 1950 to Last accessed November 23, 2016.
  4. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. World population ageing Last accessed November 23, 2016.
  5. Creighton FX Jr., Poliashenko SM, Statham MM ,et al. The growing geriatric otolaryngology patient population: A study of 131,700 new patient encounters. Laryngoscope 2013; 123 (1): 97-102.
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Department of Surgery, Division of Otolaryngology, UCONN Health, Farmington, Connecticut
Ear Nose Throat J. 2017 January;96(1):10-14