Frailty and its management represent an emerging area of clinical care in older adults. Geriatricians have long recognized a syndrome of multiple comorbid conditions, immobility, weakness, and poor tolerance of physiologic stressors in older adults. Patients with these characteristics are described as frail and suffer increased adverse clinical outcomes. This article reviews the clinical spectrum of frailty in older adults, its biologic etiology, and potential clinical interventions. Several operational definitions of frailty and the associated clinical signs, symptoms, and outcomes are outlined. The biologic mechanisms hypothesized to underlie frailty are explored, particularly in the musculoskeletal, endocrine, and immune systems. Treatment options for frail, older adults are discussed, including physiologic system-targeted interventions and geriatric models of care.
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