Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Age-adjusted and Expanded Lactate Thresholds as Predictors of All-Cause Mortality in the Emergency Department


Introduction: While numerous studies have found emergency department (ED) lactate levels to be associated with increased in-hospital mortality, little information is available on the role age plays in this association. This study investigates whether age is a necessary variable to consider when using lactate levels as a marker of prognosis and a guide for management decisions in the ED.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study in an urban, tertiary-care teaching hospital. A total of 13,506 lactate levels were obtained over a 4.5-year period. All adult patients who had a lactate level obtained by the treating provider in the ED were screened for inclusion. The main outcome measure was in-hospital mortality using age-adjusted cohorts and expanded lactate thresholds with secondary outcomes comparing mortality based on the primary clinical impression.

Results: Of the 8796 patients in this analysis, there were 474 (5.4%) deaths. Mortality rates increased with both increasing lactate levels and increasing age. For all ages, mortality rates increased from 2.8% in the less than 2.0 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) lactate level, to 5.6% in the 2.0-2.9 mmol/L lactate level, to 8.0% in the 3.0-3.9 mmol/L lactate level, to 13.9% in the 4.0-4.9 mmol/L lactate level, to 13.7% in the 5.0-5.9 mmol/L lactate level, and to 39.1% in the 6.0 mmol/L or greater lactate level (p <0.0001). Survivors, regardless of age, had a mean lactate level <2.0 whereas non-survivors had mean lactate levels of 6.5, 4.5, and 3.7 mmol/L for age cohorts 18-39, 40-64, and ≥ 65 years, respectively.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that although lactate levels can be used as a prognostic tool to risk stratify ED patients, the traditional lactate level thresholds may need to be adjusted to account for varying risk based on age and clinical impressions.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View