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Perioperative assessment of older surgical patients using a frailty index—feasibility and association with adverse post-operative outcomes

Department of Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Anaesthesia. Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland


This study aimed to examine the feasibility of using a frailty index (FI) based on comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA), to assess the level of frailty in older surgical patients preoperatively and to evaluate the association of FI-CGA with poorer postoperative outcomes. Two hundred and forty-six patients aged ≥70 years undergoing intermediate- to high-risk surgery in a tertiary hospital were recruited. Frailty was assessed using a 57-item FI-CGA form, with fit, intermediate frail, and frail patients defined as FI ≤0.25, >0.25 to 0.4, and >0.4, respectively. Adverse outcomes were ascertained at 30 days and 12 months post-surgery. Logistic regression models assessed the relationship between FI and adverse outcomes, adjusting for age, gender and acuity of surgery. The mean age of the participants was 79 years (standard deviation [SD] 6.5%), 52% were female, 91% were admitted from the community, 43% underwent acute surgery, and 19% were assessed as frail. The FI-CGA form was reported as being easy to apply, with a low patient refusal rate (2.2%). The majority of items were easy to rate, although inter-rater reliability was not tested. In relation to outcomes, greater frailty was associated with increased 12-month mortality (6.4%, 15.6%, and 23% for fit, intermediate frail, and frail patients respectively, P=0.01) and 12-month hospital readmissions (33.9%, 48.9%, and 60% respectively, P=0.004). There were no statistically significant differences between fit, intermediate frail, and frail groups in perioperative adverse events (17.4%, 23.3%, and 19.1% respectively, P=0.577) or 30-day postoperative complications (35.8%, 47.8%, and 46.8% respectively, P=0.183). Our findings suggest that it is feasible to use the FI-CGA to assess frailty preoperatively, and that using the FI-CGA may identify patients at high risk of adverse long-term outcomes.

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