State of the art in geriatric rehabilitation. Part I: review of frailty and comprehensive geriatric assessment

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2003 Jun;84(6):890-7. doi: 10.1016/s0003-9993(02)04929-8.


Objectives: To increase recognition of geriatric rehabilitation and to provide recommendations for practice and future research.

Data sources: A CINAHL and 2 MEDLINE searches were conducted for 1980 to 2001. A fourth search used the Cochrane database.

Study selection: One author reviewed the reference for relevance and another for quality. A total of 336 articles were selected. Excluded articles were unrelated to geriatric rehabilitation or were anecdotal or descriptive reports.

Data extraction: The following major geriatric rehabilitation subtopics were identified: frailty, comprehensive geriatric assessment, admission screening, assessment tools, interdisciplinary teams, hip fracture, stroke, nutrition, dementia, and depression. Part I describes the first 5 subtopics on concepts and processes in geriatric rehabilitation. Part II focuses on the latter 5 subtopics of common clinical problems in frail older persons. A level-of-evidence framework was used to review the literature. Level 1 evidence was a randomized controlled trial (RCT) or a meta-analysis or systematic review of RCTs. Level 2 evidence included controlled trials without randomization, cohort, or case-control studies. Level 3 evidence involved consensus statements from experts or descriptive studies.

Data synthesis: Of the 336 articles evaluated, 108 were level 1, 39 were level 2, and 189 were level 3. Recommendations were made for each subtopic. In cases in which several articles were written on the same topic and drew similar conclusions, the authors chose those articles with the strongest level of evidence, reducing the total number of references.

Conclusions: Frail elderly patients should be screened for rehabilitation potential. Standardized tools are recommended to aid diagnosis, assessment, and outcome measurement. The team approach to geriatric rehabilitation should be interdisciplinary and use a comprehensive geriatric assessment. Medication reviews and self-medication programs may be beneficial. Future research should address cost effectiveness, consensus on outcome measures, which components of geriatric rehabilitation are most effective, screening, and what outcomes are sustainable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation*
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Health Services for the Aged
  • Humans